Garland Jeffreys. Why would a review of Mark Donato's fifth long player open with the name Garland Jeffreys? Donato doesn't sound a lick like him. They certainly don't look alike. And, at least to my knowledge, they have no connection. But throughout multiple spins of the Dean Jones-produced Trespassing for Beginners, I kept thinking of Garland Jeffreys. What he and Donato share is an astringent pop aesthetic. They make smart music for smart people, throwing literate—an overused term, but true here—lyrics up against New York-tough guitars (courtesy of Chronogram's John Burdick). For his part, Donato strums an acoustic and drums on four tracks, giving the disc a certain strut that angles up against his Jules Shear phrasing.
One of Jeffreys's key qualities is his ability to create drama without going overboard. Donato does that here. "Blood Patrol," with excellent piano from Elizabeth Steen, reeks with '70s panache, recalling an era when players could play. "Quit Avoiding People" rests on a surf organ lick. And the boldly dubbed "A Masterpiece of American Fiction" (originally a consideration for the album title) might even live up to its billing. "On Some Days Everything Breaks Your Heart," if you're looking for a less metaphorical reference, sounds like an outtake from Austin ace Michael Fracasso's recent Saint Monday. Markdonato.com.