At our best we sometimes find ourselves and our opposite joined, at eternal odds, in stalemated singularity. Our most solid completeness and best art often come from this constant and synchronous pulling in all directions from our innermost core. This sort of inspirational dichotomy is apparent in the local Popaholic recording artist and one-man band known as Jonathan McLeran. His first solo release, "The Romance of Plants," is an instant infection of the '60s psych-pop harmony of "Pet Sounds"-era Beach Boys and The Byrds juxtaposed against the modern indie-pop melody and hip fluidic sensibility of Pavement.
On its surface, "The Romance of Plants" at its surface is an immediate aesthetic of catchy, hook-laden, pop mastery with the tongue-and-cheek lighthearted lyric wit of Beck, Sebadoh and Of Montreal. McLeran's whimsical wordplay keeps your attention without distracting from the music. He matches up well against national contemporary Sub-Pop (circa 1992) and K Records indie influences, but refuses to get lost in the pretension and narcissism that is often all too apparent in indie music. His rhythmic prose stylings will have you humming some riff of wistful wit long after the disc is done. In some fit of compulsion, all your co-workers will no doubt go insane wondering why you keep humming the same damn infectious verse.
Indeed, all the hit hooks are there, but the record's full power is greater than the sum of its parts. You can try on some MP3s at www.popaholic.com, with national distribution on Parasol Records, but the pastoral beauty of the album lies in its reverberation in total. The album should be put on with a pot of tea and listened to from beginning to end. The cohesive and eclectic CD shows McLeran's deeper influences of classical string and piano arrangements from his University of Southern Mississippi training. The comprehensive amalgamation of McLeran's "The Romance of Plants" is an uncanny composite of indie psych pop bred on a rich understanding of more complex classical and jazz composition.
McLeran is a native of Jackson and began playing in The Sunshine Revival Band at 14 years old, with brothers Joshua and Jakob Clark, of Living Better Electrically. From those auspicious beginnings McLeran has continued to hone the richness of each new instrument he adds to his already diverse palette.
He is the second artist to sign on with Chris Nicholas' Fondren-based label, Popaholic Records. Eric Stracener's "Sockeye" was released on the upstart imprint last fall. Bookmark the Web site, www.popaholic.com and check it every so often for some of the best music Jackson has to offer.
You can buy "The Romance of Plants" locally at area Be-Bop Record Shops. www.jeffkleinmusic.com
Reviewed by Herman Snell