Personnel: Brian Haran (keyboards).
Audio Mixer: Brian Haran.
Recording information: The Pine Box, Durham, NC.
One-Armed Candy Bear is the debut album of a collaboration between Gary Louris of alt-country-rock's the Jayhawks and Django Haskins of chamber pop group the Old Ceremony. The duo met in 2013 when they were both playing a Big Star's Third concert in Chicago, part of a tour celebrating Big Star's 1975 album, Third/Sister Lovers. Calling themselves Au Pair, the songwriting team presents a power pop set of melodic charmers here, perhaps expectedly, if their bands and shared fondness of Big Star are any indication. The album has a pronounced classic rock vibe achieved, no doubt, by its Beatlesque songwriting, and likely also by the recording approach, which had the pair performing most of the album together into a single microphone. "Middle Distance" could almost pass for an outtake from Help! An album standout is the debut single and opener "In Every Window," an uptempo but wistful type of earworm that recalls bands like Badfinger ("In every window I can see your eyes/Even though you and I are living like strangers"). It's followed by the ballad "One-Eyed Crier," which employs delay and spacy effects. The title track is a bluesier effort, and "Make an Entrance" summons Gordon Lightfoot, but all the tracks are marked by warm guitar tones and falsettoed vocals, whose imperfections only add to the album's earthy charm. Though fans of a bygone music era may appreciate One-Armed Candy Bear most, there's no lack of strong tunes for connoisseurs of guitar-based indie pop or even singer/songwriter fare. ~ Marcy Donelson