There’s that classic pop-music move of disguising heartbroken lyrics with buoyant melodies. You can call it a swindle — make the listener think one thing, only to sideswipe them with sadness upon repeated playbacks — but it’s easy to empathize with an artist’s need for self-preservation. That’s the age-old secret, right? Mask the emotion, then it doesn’t hurt so much.
Anthony D’Amato is really good at this. The swinging guitar and galloping drums on single “Was a Time” are easily jubilant, but what’s he saying over the handclap jive there at the end? “There was a time that I loved you/I don’t love you anymore?” Oh. His wordsmith skills, honed under the guidance of famed poet Paul Muldoon (he of the Pulitzer Prize and New Yorker masthead) while studying at Princeton, are evident on new album and studio debut The Shipwreck From the Shore. Here the lyrics are devoid of wordplay — straight-shot daggers to a song’s core emotion and surest kernel of truth — allowing the melody and his vocal delivery to function as hooking bait if he so chooses. “Let me die in New Orleans/I want to march with them saints,” he kinda happily sings on folk gem “Good and Ready” backed by Megafaun’s Brad Cook on bass and Bon Iver’s Matt McCaughan on drums. Elsewhere, on songs like “Ludlow,” he just goes straight-on sad and beautiful, his voice soothing like a lullaby.
You can witness the ease of his emotional pull in a newly resurrected video series, in which we invite bands into our Downtown Brooklyn office to play a few songs and chat about things, like, oh, I dunno, how living in Williamsburg isn’t all that different than living in the Lower East Side. (Also to help overcome our staff’s collective fear of seeing ourselves on film and to admire our new bookshelves. We just got some really nice bookshelves!) We’d like to invite you in. Without further ado, the first installment of “Live at Brooklyn Magazine:”
Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.