New Albums Spring Up

Last week, Soundcheck heralded the arrival of spring with a story about “One More Monster,” the debut from the band Bloom. This week, Soundcheck continues the theme of spring-in-bloom — or maybe Bloomin’ Spring? — by announcing the release of “Bloom,” the new album-length CD by Saratoga Springs’ Benjamin Wagner.

After the long, cold winter, it certainly is refreshing to hear the unbridled optimism that Wagner brings to the album’s opening tune, “Late November Mind,” when he croons, “And if you think that spring’s another million miles away, just imagine all the flowers that will bloom.”

Wagner moved eastward from Syracuse University to the Spa City in October, and he didn’t waste any time making musical connections. On assignment for The Saratogian, Wagner found himself interviewing Saratoga jazz pianist Carl Landa, and an unlikely alliance was born.

“At first, I actually didn’t think that we had that much common ground,” admits Wagner, who had played in the alternative rock band Smokey Junglefrog for four years while in Syracuse.

But Wagner ended up enlisting Landa as co-producer for the album recorded in Landa’s 24-track studio in the third floor of the Club Metro with special guests like guitarist Eric Gilman, cellist Nate Barr and Raphael Chevalier adding their talents to the session.

The CD of all-original songs casts Wagner — whose warm voice recalls David Wilcox and early James Taylor — in singer-songwriter mode, a bit more folky than his solo debut album. Wagner describes last years “Always Almost There” — which earned Wagner a nomination as best new artist at last weekends SAMMY Awards in Syracuse — as “more jangly and rock ‘n’ rollish in the alternative zone.”

Still, the new “Bloom” isn’t easy to peg. “I don’t think anyone knows where to put it stylistically,” he says. “It’s not folk by a long shot.”

The Albany Times-Union (Albany, NY)