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Friday, October 19, 2012

P.J. Pacifico - Surface

P.J. Pacifico – Surface
2012, Viper Records
P.J. Pacifico has spent the past few years quietly building himself up from a well-liked regional artist to one with name recognition across the country. The Connecticut-based singer/songwriter has a penchant for folk/pop numbers with big hooks.  Pacifico’s most recent effort, Surface, loses none of that flavor, but does find Pacifico expanding his sound greatly.  The hooks and folk influence are still there, but Pacifico has begun to write the sort of songs that can get big crowds on their feet.

Surface opens with the upbeat and hopeful feel of "Half Wishing", a mid-tempo rocker about taking chances and hope for the future. This is a good place to start for Pacifico as it makes the best use of his bright and eccentric voice. "Champions And Guardians" is a wistful power anthem about the changing of the guard written in the first person. Pacifico creates the sort of sonic cadence that brings arenas to light with swaying fans and their smart phones.

Much the same can be said for "Something Nobody Knows", a wistful ballad about having the courage to let go. Once again there is a swaying cadence that is irresistible, and Pacifico manages to create a bit of magic in its midst. "Surface" finds Pacifico straying far from his listeners with a dreamy and diffuse ballad about change. Sonically pretty, it's just a bit too consistent thematically with what's come before, and seems likely to lull listeners into a musical slumber.

Change comes on "Lucky Bound", an upbeat blend of Americana and pop about biding your time and preparing yourself for success. This subtle and thoughtful piece of songwriting is catchy, and carries with it the weight of wisdom. Pacifico's cover of the Christopher Cross hit "Sailing" is organic and warm, but is cut from a rougher cloth than the original. There is more melancholy here, but it works.

"It'll Never End" has an introspective, naval gazing quality to it that is meant wants to be deep but doesn't quite hit the mark. In this case Pacifico ends up sounding a bit whiny. "Smiling Away" has more vitality even as it digs deeper into the intellectual side of loss. It's a fine bit of songwriting that's based in heartache and reflection. Surface winds down with "Hold Me, Austin", a song of letting go. In one of the most poignant moments if the album, Pacifico explores losing yourself as the path to a new beginning.

P.J. Pacifico continues the transition from unknown artist to star on Surface.  Songs of loss, reflection, survival and moving on are the prime directive on Surface, and Pacifico does get a big bogged down in the darkness at times, but then he throws a bright shining hook your way and moves in a song about hope and new tomorrows.  In short, Pacifico takes you to the edge and then pulls you back, just like any great story-teller.  The feel might be heavy at times, but Pacifico always seems to know when to step on the gas.  Surface is Pacifico’s finest work to date.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

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