The Red Button’s Summer of Love time machine is back in business.
The duo’s latest album, “As Far as Yesterday Goes,” continues the Beatles-esque harmonies cemented on their debut disc, “She’s About to Cross My Mind.”
The new disc remains retro down to its fab cover photo, a glimpse of a mod harpist playing in a field of honey-wheat grass. But there’s nothing moldy about the melodies spread across this luminous 12-track release.
The Red Button’s Mike Ruekberg and Seth Swirsky share lead vocal duties once more, with the latter’s voice the silkier of the two. Ruekberg’s gentle rasp comes in handy on the opening track, “Caught in the Middle.” A harmonica blast sets things in motion as Ruekberg recalls a stunner with two many male options, much to the narrator’s chagrin.
“Picture,” arguably the album’s emotional peak, recalls how a forgotten snapshots triggers remorse over a romance all but over. A cautious piano opening gives way to Swirsky pining for one last chance.
“I thought of all the things I never got to say… I had words but I lost ’em,” he sings, regret and reality burnishing the moment.
Some songs jump off the disk, like a giddy portrait of romantic angst called “I Can’t Forget.” The beauty of Button’s best tracks lies in their stubbornness. You’ll be humming “I Can’t Forget’s” chorus seconds after it roars out of your speakers, but you’ll need to hear it over and again to suss out its audio delights. Credit the duo’s lush production that make every listen a fresh experience. The Red Button knows exactly where to deposit a sugary backing vocal or perfectly attenuated guitar riff.
“Girl, Don’t” plays out in conventional fashion, lulling you toward a paint by numbers finale that never arrives. Ruekberg and Swirksy ditch expectations with a fade away plea for a reunion that will never be.
“Sandreen” shakes up the duo’s musical palette, nudging the album into the early 1970s. An insistent bass line sets up the choruses until Swirsky shushes them to a halt. That casual touch may have take a dozen takes to nail, but it plays out like a pair of musicians giddy with their own musical gifts.
“Easier” captures a lover’s quarrel in the album’s most efficient verse structure. It’s a cry for peace set against moody guitars and a kiss of percussion. But “She Grows Where She’s Planted” starts off like a giant lyrical overreach before turning into a freshly tilled look at that rock staple, the unattainable beauty.
“She blooms in the morning and sways so gracefully,” Swirsky sings before yet a lush arrangement washes over us. Just when you think “as far as yesterday goes” can’t get any lovelier, another layered harmony crests over the sound mix.
If pressed to pick a throwaway track one might finger “You Do Something to Me,” but it’s hand-clapping elan makes such criticism sound churlish.
The beauty of both Red Button albums is how current they feel despite their ’60s era influences. It’s one thing to mimic an era or ape its stylistic touches. A million cover bands do that well enough, thank you.
But The Red Button gleans inspiration from the past to make music that feels oddly at home in 2012 – and beyond.