The album is barely different from a CD-R that's been circling the Internet for a year. The original recordings tweaked a bit, song order rearranged, the organ-inflected ska of "Ladies of Cambridge" switched out for the exuberant violin of "M79," and you've got the kind of thing that's as unpretentious as the Ivy League can get. Which is to say pretentious, but with a sense that such things are to be mulled over and mocked, even in oneself. After 200-odd plays over the course of a year, I still get giddy.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & J & lt;/span & ack Johnson may have passed Matt Costa the joint, but the release of the California songman's second full album, Unfamiliar Faces, will all but certainly have him smoking with the likes of Cheech and Chong.
Costa's disc, released on mentor Johnson's Brushfire Records, is a polished effort that leaves the beach and takes a trip down Abbey Road.
"Mt. Pitiful," with its piano-poking pop tone, introduces listeners to a journey through musical experimentation. "Emergency Call" shoots for Ryan Adams' grittiness and succeeds on lyrical merit. "Trying to Lose My Mind" is Costa's diploma from balladeer to quirky rocker, of maybe a pass to move up from the Yeti stage. One theme is haunting lyrics with oh-so-appropriate guitar sounds, and "Bound" is downright scary... good. Almost as a tease of what's to come, "Miss Magnolia" might be the best bluegrass song released all year -- try not tapping your knee to this fitting closer.
-- BART MIHAILOVICH
DOWNLOAD: "Trying to Lose My Mind"