Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers - Gift Horse
Record Label: Vanguard
Release Date: Oct. 10, 2011
When it comes to the genre of jangly acoustic pop, few, if any, are better than Massachusetts' Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. Six years removed from their breakthrough self-titled sophomore album, the group is back with their sixth studio album. While it is a marked step forward from 2009's The Bear it's not quite as strong as 2007's Glassjaw Boxer and the aforementioned self-titled.
That being written, Gift Horse is still a charming little disc. Whether it's the punchy album opener "Gravity" or the crisp "Who We Are, Who We'll Become," Gift Horse is awash in winsome guitar work and earnest songcraft. A prime example of this is the lilting "Long Days, Fast Years," in which Kellogg's emotive croon spins a yarn about aging. Kellogg is a gifted storyteller and nowhere is that more apparent than on "Watch You Grow" in which he imparts wisdom to his children, or "My Favorite Place," in which he pines for his comfort zone.
While Gift Horse is pretty close to flawless, there are a few tracks that do leave a bit to be desired. Foremost of that is the Mellancamp-wannabe "1993," a saccharine valentine to his wife that borders on campy and banal, while "We Belong Here," teeters awfully close to cringeworthy.
All negativity aside, Gift Horse is a compelling listen and another notch on the belt of a singer-songwriter who rarely, if ever disappoints. Bolstered by a first-rate live set and a tenacity and indefatigability that rivals his contemporaries, Kellogg is reason enough to believe that the future of acoustic pop is in firm hands.