Brian Wilson, "No Pier Pressure" (Capitol)
Brian Wilson's "No Pier Pressure" offers ample reason to celebrate the extended solo career that has followed his Beach Boys' journey.
His 11th solo studio offering opens with "This Beautiful Day," a short track that captures all of Wilson's yearning and desire in the simplest, most direct way, offset by lovely harmonies and some fine trumpet work. It's less than two minutes long, but it sums up so much about his talent and timeless appeal.
Of course the entire CD — which features country singer Kacey Musgraves and fun. lead singer Nate Ruess, among others — does not reach that level, and some of the new compositions sound tepid in places. Wilson, at times, seems to be striving for a breezy, carefree sound that, after five decades, no longer sounds fresh. But even the weaker songs bear his unmistakable stamp: complex vocal mixes that can never, ever be taken for granted, and a distinctive flair for arranging. He has come a long way from "Surfer Girl" — there is more air and space in these songs, less percussion, more of a sense of time stretching calmly, endlessly ahead.
The addition of trumpeter Mark Isham brings new textures and pleasure to a number of songs, particularly the instrumental "Half Moon Bay," with its languid pace and lovely mix. The composition makes one wonder why Wilson has not been used more by Hollywood — it's easy to see him scoring the most evocative of film soundtracks.
The days of hit singles are long past, but "The Right Time" with former bandmate (and cousin) Al Jardine and David Marks shows Wilson can still come up with seductive three-minute tracks that would sound fabulous on a car radio. The same applies to the evocative "Sail Away" with Jardine and another former Beach Boy, Blondie Chaplin. Most challenging is the gorgeous finale, "The Last Song," which can be seen as both a love song to his family and as a tribute to, and desire for, the fabled band of his youth.