Philadelphia’s Steve Goldberg has become the indie bard of summer nostalgia. We first heard him here on Fingertips in September 2007, brooding sweetly and chamber-pop-ishly about summer’s end. He returned in 2010 for a bittersweet, horn-festooned ode to suburban living that was not specifically summer oriented but trafficked in a similar watching-your-life-go-by brand of pensiveness. He returns in full summer mode here in 2011 with “July,” which, despite its title, works as a soundtrack to August as well.
What begins like the Beach Boys gone twee, via Fountains of Wayne, develops a resilient core beneath its veneer of exuberant nostalgia. Despite its backward glancing—the verse in particular sports a perky, early-’60s complexion—the music seems very present, very real, thanks in no small part to Goldberg’s wholesome, somewhat nerdy (in a good way!) tenor, which complements the innocent imagery but likewise seems to comment on it. His ability to meet the music on its own terms is what makes this more than kitsch or pastiche. I like in particular how his seamless falsetto veers in the second half of each verse into the harmony line even though no one else is singing the melody. He’s kind of inviting us to sing along; and then the chorus, taking a turn towards the power pop, pretty much demands it. Do not by the way miss the grand, old-fashioned guitar solo (1:58)—a thoughtful, retro-y creation stretching out the length of an entire verse, articulated against an increasingly insistent string section (three violins, viola, and cello, for the record).
“July” is the first song to be ready and available from a five-song EP, entitled The Flood, that Goldberg is readying for release. He in fact requires a bit more capital to get the thing produced and distributed, and is in the middle of a fundraising effort towards that end, via IndieGoGo.