Jules Shear. Immediately. Not quite exact, but shimmeringly close. There's a flavor in the voice. And it's the first thing you think of when Seth Davis begins to sing. Jules Shear. As Davis's third and latest disc, Morning Songs, unfurls, you begin to think even more of Shear. How could that be a bad thing? It's not just the voice. It's the casual precision, the arc of melody, the weight of lyric. None of this means that Davis is an imitator, a monkey on Shear's stick. I don't even know that he's heard of Shear. But there is a shared economy, and it's a delightful place to start.
"A Softer Place to Land" opens the disc with a folk rock lilt and perhaps the album's weakest set of lyrics. But the forced hook doesn't prevent you from hitting repeat. Others, better, follow—the haunting waltz "Flannel and Blue (Laura's Song)," the relentlessly groovy "Kim," and the remarkable "Whole Life Crisis"—amplifying Davis's simple qualities. He has a keen way with both story and telling. Aimee Mann's "Mr. Harris," for example, is sung from a new point of view, not just male, but two steps to the side. Sonically, it's less baroque and little less catchy. But there's an earthiness that's worth the trade. A Queens native, Davis's roots stretch back to the East Village anti-folk haunts of the early '90s, and that conflict—between writing, rocking, and respecting roots—is still playing out in the metaphorical grooves of Morning Songs. Sethdavis.com.