With quarantines lifting a bit and summer on the way, it’s no surprise there’s a broad desire for some happy pop. Even if nautical themes are absent, new releases from Hala, Matt Wilson and Kevin Krauter almost feel as though yacht-rock was back in style. Red Herring (Cinematic), the third album and first proper studio effort from Detroit’s Ian Ruhala (Hala), works from the broadest palette. The opener, “Turn Out Right,” is a brash pop anthem, but the album meanders through R&B and Broadway styles in its dozen comforting tunes.
Matt Wilson, former lead singer for Trip Shakespeare, may aim for grandiosity by calling his four-piece ensemble an “orchestra” for the album When I Was a Writer (Pravda), but the band with harp and banjo is perfect for the 10 winsome and hilarious songs within, delivered in a Ben Folds style.
Those preferring a touch of mid-’70s Todd Rundgren can check out Kevin Krauter’s Full Hand (Bayonet Records), his second album of self-described “nice” riffs and lyrics. In these times of pandemic, nice is just fine.