Power pop will never die. At least, it won't as long as whippersnappers like Jonny Polonsky are around to infuse it with the youth and exuberance he displays on his debut album, Hi My Name Is Jonny. Just 22 years old, Polonsky inundated his idol, Frank Black, with tapes of his music. Black was impressed enough to not only get Polonsky a record deal, but to produce his debut. The Black touch is apparent throughout the album, especially on tracks like "In My Mind" and "I Don't Know What to Dream at Night," both of which boast loud guitars, sharp pop hooks, and cute lyrics. Occasionally, Polonsky overdoes the quirkiness that makes his songs unique – "Evil Scurvy Love" and "It's Good to Sleep" are a bit too silly for their own good. However, Polonsky's pop smarts create some terrific, catchy love songs like "Gone Away" and "Half Mind," which sound excited to exist. "Love Lovely Love" is instant gratification at its best, and "Truly Ugly and Dead Too" is as fun a put-down song as you're likely to hear. Too short at ten songs, Hi My Name Is Jonny makes Polonsky a name to remember.
Sweet Creep includes the lyricism of prior release Dad Country with an added air of hopefulness. Recorded in Jim James' (of My Morning Jacket) makeshift hilltop studio in Montecito Heights, Sweet Creep reverberates with the feeling of sunny vistas. From album opener Are You Thirsty to the summer-crushy 'Humidifier', Sweet Creep is a freshly-signed lease on life. Jonny throws himself into the new album by stripping things down to the essentials. He gathered Nashville's Joshua Hedley and Dawes' Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith and recorded the whole album in three days. The fresh air, freedom from studio pressures, and strong cups of tea all mix into the music, with ATVs briefly heard in the background and two senior tortoises listening at Hedley's feet as he fiddles away.
Jonny King is a talented advanced hard bop player whose playing on this early release finds him performing in a group that recalls the Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land quintet of the early '70s. King sometimes sounds here like McCoy Tyner or Mulgrew Miller, and he contributed six of the eight numbers – all but the standard "Mean to Me," which is taken as a tasteful piano-vibes duet, and Herbie Hancock's "Blow Up," with the closing calypso "Las Ramblas" being the most memorable. Steve Nelson's vibes (influenced by Hutcherson) are a key voice both in the ensembles and as a soloist. Joshua Redman is in excellent if conventional form on tenor while showing on the hyperactive "Caffeine" that his soprano playing is coming along. With bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond offering solid support, this is a fine modern mainstream date.