Blanket Music – Nice

Blanket is the band project of Chad Crouch, president of Hush Records and something of a versatile artist in the Portland, Ore. area. Having only heard Crouch’s solo work before, it’s nice to hear his talents put to a band setting with the whole drums and bass thing and accompaniment from strings and accordions. It makes for some very fleshed out and full-sounding pop songs.
That’s not to say that Crouch’s solo work is any less good, but he sounds complete in this band setting. Just as in his solo work, however, the charm of the album is Crouch’s vocals. At times he sounds like a more accomplished Tim Kinsella and at others like Belle & Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch. His vocals fit the style of music, which runs from light and jazzy to calm and folky to upbeat and bossa. On every song, however, the elements of sincerity and charm come through, making this a lovely and immensely rewarding album.
“Déjà vu” starts things off with a delightfully jazzy pop song that has some beautiful string segments. And here, Crouch’s voice is just slightly breaking and at his most endearing. “Kitten” takes on more of a moody and heavy folk feel, with an emphasis on Crouch’s acoustic guitar and accordion in the background. And like its name, “Bossa Rev” has more of a bossa nova style, bouncy and light, with Crouch’s vocals deep and perfectly fitting. The songs continue to change slightly between styles but never vary too far in tempo or mood, which keeps this album consistent. “Sao Paulo Graffiti,” for example, uses backing vocals more for melody and has a soft but very rich sound, and it picks up nicely with a more poppy beat. On “Like Someone in Love,” Crouch sounds more like Nick Drake, and the song takes something of a Drake-like folk feel. And “Cliché Lines” has much more of a Belle & Sebastian style of pop, sure to be a big hit with indie pop fans, even with the organ and Crouch’s Murdoch-like vocals. “Sexy Ways” has something of a 70’s rock feel to it, at least in the guitar, and something of a sexy, jazzy rhythm and flow. Crouch’s breaking voice adds a nice touch to the song, too. The closer, “Pretty/Important,” ends things on a very mellow and softly pretty note, with some lovely guitar and chiming organ in the background.
The music on Nice seems more influenced by early jazz and bossa nova style music than pop, but Crouch has pulled those influences into a more traditional pop structure and created some absolutely beautiful songs. Nothing here comes out too harsh or difficult, making it almost easy listening, but not in a muzak sort of way. It’s lovely stuff, light and jazzy and just poppy enough, all with some incredible vocals. Excellent album.