San Francisco's recent resurgence in the world of garage-y indie rock (Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Fresh & Onlys, Sonny and the Sunsets) is probably in some part due to the work of Kelley Stoltz, who's been dabbling in mid-fi '60s-influenced psych-garage in the Bay Area for a decade-plus. And the guy does it just about as well as anyone right now.
Those looking for boundary-pushing, genre-defying music will have to look elsewhere, but if you like Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, The Byrds, Tom Petty, and The Kinks, this singer-songwriter takes those obvious influences and applies them to his rock-solid, instantly likable songs.
Stoltz reminds me of a more droll version of Ray Davies, and his lyrics feature the same kind of wistfulness and melancholia found in Davies' best Kinks songs. And Stoltz often portrays himself as an almost-powerless figure in a world too big to maneuver, whether he's being whipped by the wind or trapped in ice and snow or is a ball of string that is unwinding. The Pink Floyd-ian musical flourishes -- synths, horns, flute -- lend a mystical air to Stoltz's otherwise straightforward garage-pop arrangements.
If you're reading this and thinking it may sound too hippie for you, rest assured that it's not. Though there is some of that Syd Barrett-esque playfulness in the music, Stoltz is a garage rocker at heart, and that sensibility keeps these songs grounded. He's sort of a saner modern-day Roky Erickson. For that reason alone, To Dreamers is worth checking out.
Best song: The song above, "I Don't Get That," is a strong representative of what's on To Dreamers. Rotation: Medium-heavy Deja vu: A kaleidoscope I'd rather listen to: The just-reissued Soft Boys LPs. Grade: B+
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.