P.J. Pacifico - Outlet
2011, Viper Records
2011, Viper Records
P.J. Pacifico has been wowing crowds around the US for several years now. His sophomore album, Always & Everywhere, found Pacifico beginning to amass the sort of critical acclaim and exposure that fans have expected for some time. Pacifico has spent the past couple of years on the road, playing live and perfecting new material. In that time he became engaged and then married to his girlfriend of a decade. On June 7, 2011, P.J. Pacifico releases his third album, Outlet. Born of well-seasoned numbers and songs inspired by the love of his life, Outlet finds P.J. Pacifico truly coming into his own as a grounded singer/songwriter. Long compared to Matthew Sweet, James Taylor and the Gin Blossoms, Pacifico has finally settled into his own distinctive sound that has its roots in all of the above but has seasoned with time.
Outlet opens with "Fold Up Your Heart", a song about picking up the pieces after heartbreak. Pacifico's lightly gravelly voice is exceedingly pleasant to listen to, and the chorus is absolutely memorable. The catchy country/rock arrangement is likely to have wide appeal. "Heads Up" sounds like a blend of Rob Thomas and Alan Parsons, a kiss-off song to a friend who goes to the well one too many times. Pacifico dresses it up in an Americana sound with deluxe vocal harmonies. "Home With Me" takes a ten year relationship and compresses it into less than five minutes. It's a mature love song, sweet but realistic. Pacifico touches on both the highs and lows of getting to someplace good, in the process creating one of his most commercial viable songs to date. This is a potential hit, but would probably need the help of getting attached to a big movie soundtrack to get the attention it deserves.
"Lakeshore Drive" is an edgy, low-key rocker that represents Pacifico's first composition not written in A-440 tuning. The Chicago reference is obvious, but Pacifico is mysterious on the specifics of inspiration. No matter, the unusual sound and style here will keep listeners glued to their speakers. "As Soon As I Can" is a tribute to Pacifico's wife. It's a song that any working and travelling artist with a supportive spouse at home can understand. There's a melancholy here born of the dual pull of needing to be on the road and wanting to be at home that is touchingly real. "Waiting" is about two friends falling slowly in love, while being the only two in the world oblivious to the fact. Pacifico's writing is artful and sweet, taking a fictional scenario and breathing life into it with fitful glances and false starts that come across in the music. This one definitely has licensing potential.
"New Song" is self-referential and fun, a song about the song itself, ala Jason Plumb's "Protest Song". It's catchy and fun bit of fluff that's a treat for the ear. "Where Can I Be" has a Paul Simon-gone-country feel to it, both in the songwriting and the subject matter. Pacifico ruminates on new paths going forward, and the human collateral incurred by changes in direction. The song is a general message that just because he's off on his own that old doors aren't necessarily closed. Pacifico wrote the song with the idea of collaboration while recording only one vocal track, suggesting perhaps musical stories not yet complete. "Ships In The Night" is a song about what might have been; near misses and the moments of contemplation that surround them. There's a palpable quality to the song that cannot be ignored, and Pacifico breathes life into the moment. Outlet closes with "Targets", an ode to being on the road and the sights seen as a traveling musician. The arrangement is Pacifico on voice and guitar, and a galloping backbeat born of the early days of rock n roll.
P.J. Pacifico has always shown a distinctive voice as a songwriter, and his singing voice is nothing to sneeze at either, but on Outlets it all comes together. Just as the pieces of his life have fallen into place over the past few years, Pacifico's musical gifts have fallen into place to create his best work to date. Full of heart, class and spirit, Outlet is the sort of singer/songwriter effort critics have been predicting Pacifico would one day create. There's still room to grow (there always is), but Pacifico has finally found the comfort to let everything flow into song. Outlet is breakout waiting to happen.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)