Spring has always been a time I start grooving on pop music. A good pop track helps rejuvenate the soul as the recent rain and sun cleanses the bitterness from winter. Time to dust the bugs off your shoulders, rewire the wit in the brain and maybe finally ask that special someone to a dance instead of coffee. One Irish man got the pop soundtrack to the future plunges that we will take in the upcoming seasons, for better or for worse.
So Cow features the incestuous one-man band of Brian Kelly. Kelly plays guitar, bass, drums, drum machine, synth and back up vocals. A true musical entrepreneur, Kelly recorded his tracks in rehearsal spaces in the same buildings he taught South Korean kids and university students. He pushed his records through Myspace. Now signed to Tic-Tac Totally Records in Chicago, he is racking up the venues for his U.S./European tour.
The beauty of So Cow is his ability to push the indie-garage-pop sound. Everything sounds fresh despite the familiarity of the melodies and chord progression. The guitars are fast and tangled but fluid. Even when dipped in distortion they don’t overpower the mood of the song but entices more emotions. His guitar solos accomplish what good solos do: express inexplicable feelings that words cannot say. Kelly’s voice at times does sound jaded, but devotion and yearning linger from his breath-like croon. When Kelly does project his voice, it’s earnest like your best-friend singing next to you.
So Cow has two albums out: his self titled premiere and recently released Meaningless Friendly. Both of them bewitching pop albums. “Casablanca” the main single from the self-titled brings an adventurous refrain with an infectiously spazzy chorus of the title. “Greetings” sounds like if Stuart Murdoch (Belle & Sebastian) teamed up with Elvis Costello in an artsy power pop band. So Cow even touches on his South Korean heartbreaks in “Moon Geun Young” (name of a popular S. Korean singer) and “Ja Ju An Pa Yo.” “Meaningless Friendly” is a little bit darker than the self-titled but still can fit in your next “to my lover” mixtape. The main single, “Shut Eye” leans towards a tamed Jesus & The Mary Chain, which sounds more of a fuzzy peach dream than a bed bug infested nightmare. “The Tony Keady Affair”, reminds me of the dignified confessions of Neutral Milk Hotel, with some literary references thrown in. So Cow also has an EP with some cool covers like “Runaway” by Del Shannon, “This Angry Silence” by Television Personalities and “The Perfect Me” by Deerhoof.
Brian Kelly is a man with many talents. I have a feeling he hasn’t tapped into his full potential yet. With all the heartache under his sleeve in these past two albums, we could see an even brighter side of Kelly….unless he’s a true romantic and constantly gets his heart stomped on. More material for epic songs, no?