If you’re feeling up for some good, wistful summer dad-rock, check out Heart Inside Your Head, the sophomore album from Nick Piunti & The Complicated Men, released tomorrow May 20, 2022. The Detroit-based power pop band, with Nick Piunti on lead vocals, guitars and synthesizer, Jeff Daksiewicz on electric guitar, Kevin Darnall on piano, organ and synthesizer, Jeff Hupp on bass and Ron Vensko on drums, cite the anxious turmoil of the past two years as the concept for these tracks.
I gave the album a listen this past week, having just come off the tail end of my second bout of COVID-19. Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty pathetic and low energy. This was a perfect listen to lounge around to, coughing a hellish racket in my jorts. That’s not to say this album is low energy, but it strikes a great balance of easy tempo and moderate volume that doesn’t feel pushy. It simply feels good.
I’d never heard of Nick Piunti or his Complicated Men before, but there’s a familiarity to these tracks that had me trying to put my finger on…something. Like when you see a familiar face in a show or movie and search your mind’s catalogue to place them, just to find out you’ve never seen anything else they’ve been in. That’s been happening a lot to me lately. Piunti and his emotive rasp give me Springsteen meets The Feelies meets Bryan Adams meets The Sound meets Elvis Costello vibes. And this may be my fevered state talking, but: He’s the Faceless Man in the best, most posi way, and these tracks are Faceless Tracks, bringing a big welcome universality to the full project.
The title track “Heart Inside Your Head,” released as a single last summer, maintains a fairly infectious melody with some crunchy front-facing guitars that keep this album firmly standing a middle ground between rock and power pop. Piunti’s guitar work–his big ol’ chiming riffs–throughout the album is bomb, actually, and keeps this puppy from slouching.
My favorite on the album is “Slave to It.” The catchy lyrics, the driving jangly guitar, and the echoing chorus remind me of Big Star, earnest without wearing out its welcome. Super solid and memorable in its construction and execution, with little unique flourishes that are easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. I especially like when composers trust me to pay attention to the little, nearly buried details. If I dig too deep into that need to be trusted, I’ll be forced to take it up with a licensed therapist, so I’ll end that train of thought here.
The strident piano opening “Hopes Up” got my hopes up the most for this LP, and those hopes were honored with a solid melody and an optimistic, but not overly corny chorus. Despite being the seventh track, “Hopes Up” feels like the culmination of the whole LP’s muted 60s pastiche with its female BGVs and poptimism–highly satisfying and definitely endearing. It’s a warm weather toe-tapper. Damn I love a strident piano.
The whole album is just proper good band energy from some older Detroit guys who still crank a dope melody and a tight rhythm and a fantastic balance of genre. Most uniquely, it’s full of sing-alongs ready to be plucked by you and your best mates in the car on the way to the beach. The only real negative I can draw is that we are getting yet another pandemic album with this. And I feel like that’s been done to death and I’m ready for a change and so is everyone and holy shit everything just sucks. But so it goes. Pandemic fatigue is the zeitgeist, and it’s manifest in just about all the new art and music we’re getting now. My hopes are up that we’re gonna turn a corner soon, in all the ways. ::cough::
Check out “Heart Inside Your Head,” releasing tomorrow May 20, here: https://nickpiuntimusic.bandcamp.com/album/heart-inside-your-head