Pop matters 

Andy Matchett & the Minks
The Apple Tree Circle

with Peter Baldwin, the Equines
8 p.m. Friday, July 23
Back Booth, 407-999-2570



Pop rock is an artistic path as easy as it is perilous, its ground trampled by so many hacks that the chances of coming across any real essence of character have become hopelessly slim. That's what makes this band, and their well-furnished album, no small wonder.

Orlando singer-songwriter Andy Matchett has played with a string of bands — most notably the Monorail and XOXO — but this is by far the best, most cohesive band for his material to date. What distinguishes their take on alternative rock are solid fundamentals and effortlessly astute songwriting, and they are gifted with a natural and generous way with melody. Much of this can be credited to Matchett's strong, open-hearted and airborne voice.

Produced by the talented Justin Beckler, The Apple Tree Circle is cut with proportions robust enough to bring the Minks' huge melodies and hooks to full and vibrant life. From the joyous gallop of "Thoughtsalot (A Note to Bill Watterson)" and the big embrace of "All This Time" to the solitary slow-dance of "Last Minute Love Song" and the somber swoon of "Ghost," the album deftly handles all seasons of mood. The pick of the lot is the brisk and beaming heart of the single-worthy "Too Much Happiness."

Where so many have succumbed to insubstantial mediocrity, Andy Matchett & the Minks have managed to craft simple and guilelessly catchy pop rock that's actually nourishing. Like Beckler's solo material, this effervescent album is a prime example of how wide accessibility can coexist with bona fide quality. Their music is perfectly accessible and scratches every single itch that only straightforward pop music can, all without any speciousness. In a just world, this is what mainstream radio would sound like.

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