THE RED BUTTON, As Far As Yesterday Goes
Typically, artists pay homage to their pop/rock heroes or an era that is special to them by creating collections of crafty covers. This is way too typical and unimaginative for the brilliant, versatile, and agile musical minds of Seth Swirsky and Mike Ruekberg, who follow up their critically acclaimed 2007 indie debut, She's About to Cross My Mind, with an equally brilliant set of originals that draw from an even richer, more stylistically expansive well than their previous work did. The mid-'60s Beatles mystique is still there, to be sure; with its feisty harmonica and shimmering guitars; the rousing opener "Caught in the Middle" is a contemporary equivalent of what might have happened if Lennon and McCartney had come up with sharper lyrics and a more dynamic groove on "I Should Have Known Better."
Album title aside, it's just as much about the tomorrows that follow yesterday -- as in what Ruekberg, the album's producer, has called the "golden age of singer/songwriter driven pop/rock." The result is a delightful journey that allows listeners to remain in the indie world of the 2010s while drifting off on a dreamy, super-melodic bus infused with the pure pop magic of 1965-1973. Kids growing up in the 2010s might not remember a time when music was this charming, to the point, and infectious, which is all the more reason their parents should make them listen to it. The good news is that the vibe harkens back to an era where music was eminently hummable; the better news is that Swirsky and Ruekberg are not just great mood setters but excellent pop craftsmen. The two are very much the modern equivalent of Lennon and McCartney in that Swirsky has Paul's sense of romance and wistful optimism, while Ruekberg's got a slightly darker, sardonic edge. This synergy between darkness and light infuses the light-hearted musical vibe of the title track and "Picture" with creeping shadows and a few lumps in the throat full of sadness and regret.
Happy, jangling guitars drive "Girl, Don't," but the pleas to extend the relationship belie that expected emotion. Similarly, "Sandreen" blends cheerful jangle, punchy guitars, and airy vocals with a story of love after the fact. Thankfully, there are also a few bursts where a sense of hope overwhelms all other impulses, particularly on the magnificent, sunny girl chasing sweetness of "On a Summer Day," the charming "healthy relationship" tune "She Grows Where She's Planted," and the cheery acoustic clap and singalong of "You Do Something to Me." Listeners could get so caught up in any one of these -- which easily merit a hundred listens before moving to the next -- that they might forget that there are 12 songs total. But the final three tracks are delightfully crisp as well, starting with the heavy-hearted/jingle-jangle Beatles-flavored "I Can't Forget" and wrapping up with the laid-back melancholy of "Genevieve" and the powerful, introspective search for personal peace in "Running Away," which features a gorgeous blend of guitar and piano.
Swirsky makes a point in the press materials of saying that the Red Button reflects on the reality that "not everything is perfect and happy all the time" -- but he forgot to mention that, in the 37 minutes of listening to As Far as Yesterday Goes from start to finish, everything truly is. It's pure pop genius from start to finish.