Free and legal MP3: Geoff Ereth (smartly paced orchestral folk)

“Surefooted” – Geoff Ereth

Deftly arranged and smartly paced, “Surefooted” packs a goodly number of instruments into a brisk three and a half minutes, but the sound remains clean and uncluttered. There’s piano and guitar and drums, there’s a string quartet, a trombone, an interesting keyboard or two, maybe a woodwind of one sort or another—“orchestral folk” is what Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist Geoff Ereth calls it. But unlike much of what comes under the “chamber pop” umbrella, “Surefooted” leaves enough white space in and around its arrangement to feel fresh and easy rather than baroque and belabored.

The key, I think, is the strength of the song itself. I love instrumental variety in rock’n’roll as much as anyone, but too often the aural curlicues are covering up melodic staleness—underneath the ornamentation, there’s no there there, to use that old Gertrude Stein nugget. With “Surefooted,” there’s plenty of there, as both the verse and chorus feature strong melodies, put forward with gentle assurance by the smooth-voiced Ereth (and note the arresting way he offers harmonies on the middle lines of each verse but not the first and last). Symbolic, perhaps, of the song’s full but unadorned feel is the instrumental break at around 2:10—rather than any orchestral swell, we are stripped down to just the strings, playing with punch and punctuation (and pizzicato), which creates room for an uncomplicated but evocative piano line that wanders briefly through at 2:20. (The string quartet that plays with Ereth on his record is Osso, which is the same group that has performed with both Sufjan Stevens and My Brightest Diamond.)

Drunk With Translation was released digitally via iTunes last month, and will be out on CD in January; it is self-released, under the Deerly Records imprint.

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