Carefree [Ba Da Bing Records]
Charming solo debut from former mall punk gets retro-classy
If you ever bought one of those Epitaph Records Punk-O-Rama compilations in the late '90s, you might vaguely recall Devon Williams' pop-punk band Osker. (They also played the house-party band in the movie Crazy/Beautiful.) And your jaw might crack the table when you hear the direction he's taken on his solo debut. It's not uncommon for lapsed punks to turn to country or folk (an urge Williams slakes as the guitarist for Lavender Diamond), but how often do they become '60s pop-rockers with a penchant for syrupy chamber strings? Echoes of Williams' old group can be heard in the rollicking cadences of "Stephanie City" and "Bells" but, mostly, Carefree is for fans of Cass McCombs, Belle & Sebastian and John Vanderslice. The production sparkles with reverb and cavernous drums, and from the marching strings of "Please Be Patient" to the harmonized girl-group "ooh-oohs" of "One and One," Williams has found a context in which his lush tenor can really soar.