The CDs pass before me in a hazy procession of jewel cases. I listen to as many as I can and keep the ones I haven’t heard yet in hopeful piles. They talk among themselves when I’m not around or not paying attention – I fear they plot insurrection for my negligence.
Mark Lane’s Golden State of Mind, indie all the way, made absolutely no impression when I got it about a month ago, just another thin dude with an acoustic guitar – next!. But then I got a call about it from a publicist, and I can usually tell when I am getting the “this is my job” pitch and when the person is genuinely enthused – this seemed real.
Lane recorded, produced, arranged, sang and played most of the instruments himself, which typically leads to a lo-tech vibe, and which is either charming or just plain crappy. Golden State of Mind is way beyond “charming” into “quintessential recapitulation of much that is great about SoCal pop-rock” territory.
Lane, whose earliest musical memory is playing “Bennie and the Jets” ad nauseum at the local pizza parlor, formed the Hoodwinks with childhod friend Troy Van Leeuwen (A Perfect Circle, Queens of the Stone Age) right after high school, played around L.A. regularly and demoed fro Virgin, Elektra and Zoo before releasing Feel Too Good on their own in ’96.
As virtually all bands do, the Hoodwinks disbanded and Lane retreated into songwriting and developing himself as a multi-instrumentalist. Eventually Lane recorded four songs at musician-friend Jason Faulkner’s (Jellyfish and Air’s touring band) home studio, before building his own studio in his Echo Park home.
The result is brilliant. A solo strummed acoustic guitar opens “Girl With the Clouds” – here we go with the lo-fi – which then suddenly blooms into a pastel landscape of whirling Wurlitzer, chiming electric guitar, chipper background oohs and aahs, and a Lennon-esque vocal that finds the ideal balance between the poignant and whimsical halves of living for dreams.
“Drivin’ Braille” is another sharp melody and arrangement, of which Brian Wilson himself would be proud. “The One You Waited For” sounds like something sweet off an Andrew Gold album – orchestral pop-rock with verve and a slight edge.
“Name In Lights” is my favorite “I’m gonna be a star someday” song since the Raspberries “Overnight Sensation,” the dreams of “Girl With the Clouds” made real. Though the music is more bright pop-rock, there is real backbone behind Lane’s claims – you believe he has the perseverance to make it. By now the talent is a given.
On “50 years Too Late,” D.J. Bonebrake (X) and Chris Joyner (Soul Asylum) join Lane on vibes and accordion respectively for a restive stroll down an Old L.A. alley where Chuck Prophet meets Nick Cave at twilight, the edge in Lane’s voice nudges toward Everlast territory, absolutely exceptional. “Enough to Go Around” strolls with a firm backbeat and killer chorus through similar terrain, making note that even in SoCal abundance might be a zero-sum game. The title track is a sunny light to this shadow.
Once again I learn the hard way to take nothing for granted: listen to everything you can, you never know when you’ll find something as great as this.
If you’re in L.A., check Mark Lane out live at The Mint on November 22.
Unfortunately, Golden State of Mind is not available through Amazon, but you can pick it up through CD Baby here.