As the saxophone, percussion, and organ kick off “Unborn,” the first song on Bradford Trojan’s first full-length solo album, you’re just waiting for Ronnie Spector or Darlene Love to start singing. Like Phil Spector’s immaculate productions for countless ‘60s girl groups, Trojan, who plays every instrument on this record except for the saxophone, creates little symphonies for the kids. Inside the beautifully crafted arrangements are songs of seemingly endless layers of depth, understated and affecting lyrics, and indelible melodies.
Tracks like “Sleepless Beat” and “Planet Tonight” play like standards, the melodies so sweet that you feel like you’ve heard them all your life. On the swinging “Self Cell,” Trojan’s voice, slightly similar in both timbre and restraint to Marc Bolan’s, feels more akin to the clear gorgeousness of Chet Baker’s “My Funny Valentine” while sounding nothing like it. Does he have any idea what he’s doing?
The flinch-inducing melancholia of “Missed My Shot” is the unquestionable keeper here, jacking the chords and mood from Nico’s version of “These Days.” Trojan’s vocals, delivered in a near whisper, put unbearable loneliness and regret under a lamp stark enough for a science laboratory. The lyrics are free of metaphor but full of unblinking reflection, and they’re breathtaking. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
The rest of Bradford Trojan works out the possibilities of these songs – the dichotomy of richly detailed music and unmannered singing – be it the wondrous drone of “Starrats” or the soulful and bouncing “Every Little Bone.” This is an album for the ages.