Audio Mixer: Adam Jessup.
Photographer: David J. Woodruff.
Halfway through Casino Drone, his third album under the name Mike Adams at His Honest Weight, Mike Adams lets loose with a modern power pop moment of genius that stops the record dead. "Diem Be" is three minutes of breathtaking music that swerves from a dramatic opening to the kind of swooning, strummy lilt that calls to mind Gerry Love's best Teenage Fanclub songs, then brings it home with an achingly beautiful chorus that is likely to bring tears to anyone feeling even a little bit vulnerable. It's the kind of song that can wreck an album, because it's so good that it can make the rest sound like scraps. Luckily, Casino Drone has another ten songs that are almost as good. Ranging from arena-sized indie rock ("Bronze Worlds") and smooth soft rock ("Keep My Heart Alive") to echoing '50s-inspired ballads ("Smart Marks") and stripped-down guitar pop ("Hobart, Chuck Manson & Jim"), the album is the work of a true craftsman with a unique style. To that end, the Indiana-based musician/talk show host plays all the instruments, co-produces, and sings in a pleasingly guy-next-door voice while writing down-to-earth lyrics and earwormy melodies. The album mostly hits a solid groove firmly in midtempo, subdued, somewhat melancholy territory -- think Elliott Smith or early Shins, but with choruses that soar like the best emo-pop. Songs like "The Lucky One" and "Underneath the Door" show this kind of hybrid style can work really well, especially when undertaken by someone with the pleasant persona and sure-handed way with a melody that Adams always displays. He never goes too far to sell a song, while at the same time making sure the arrangements are interesting enough to make everything sound really good. It's modern Midwestern adult pop at its near best. A few more songs as huge as "Diem Be" and Mike Adams at His Honest Weight would be the talk of the town, and Casino Drone would be a crowning achievement. For now, it's more of a hidden pop treasure, one well worth seeking out. ~ Tim Sendra