From Lexington, Kentucky, pianist James Friley dishes up some curious, engaging songwriting this week under the alias Idiot Glee. Case in point is “Evergreen Psycho,” a tune that echoes the heartfelt balladry of soft-rock songwriters from the early 70s but is discernably a little off. Maybe it’s Friley’s voice, a plummy baritone that’s more earnest and goofy than we’re used to hearing in these days of chillwave and chillax. Or maybe it’s how the unhurried pace and swelling chorus seem to track some drama off scene, outside the words and composition themselves. The production work by Stephen Trask, the musical force behind “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” clues us in: ostensibly an indie-rocker, Idiot Glee may actually be writing scores for Off-Broadway musicals yet to be created.
There’s more where this came from on Idiot Glee’s self-titled fourth album, which sees release this Friday. Over ten tracks, Idiot Glee features keen songwriting given shape by an unfussy indie-pop combo. As the “Lost in Space” sound effects that fill the album’s first 90 seconds make clear, there’s plenty of weird here, but it’s weirdness out of sorts with the calculated artifice so evident on social media. Best of all are the moments when Friley, a classically trained pianist, steps out on the 88 keys. His flourishes and subtle jives on the solo of “Baby (I Could Be Your Bone”) are one of my favorite musical moments of the new year so far.
IDIOT GLEE ON TOUR:
01/29 – Al’s Bar – Lexington, KY
02.06 – Dreamland – Louisville, KY
02.07 – Outland Ballroom – Springfield, MO
02.08 – The 806 – Amarillo, TX
02.10 – Whistle Stop – San Diego, CA
02.12 – The Smell – Los Angeles, CA
02.13 – Barmel – Carmel-by-the-sea, CA
02.14 – Amnesia – San Francisco, CA
02.16 – Mississippi Studios – Portland, OR
02.17 – Obsidian – Olympia, WA
02.18 – The Future – Seattle, WA
02.19 – VFX – Missoula, MT
02.20 – City Limits – Provo, UT
02.21 – Hi Dive – Denver, CO
02.23 – Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
03.16 – BAR – New Haven, CT
03.18 – Silent Barn – Brooklyn, NY
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs about the intersection of urban studies and popular music at musicalurbanism.org.