Listening Booth: Eric Hutchinson, “Sounds Like This”

Written by Listening Booth, Music

Eric Hutchinson – Sounds Like This (2008)
purchase this album (Amazon)

Nine times out of 10, I’ve got to believe that a singer/songwriter who got a crucial career break from Perez Hilton would rank at or near the bottom of the list of things I’m interested in hearing — but even a broken clock is right twice a day, and as I rinse the taste of crow out of my mouth, I’m forced to admit that Hilton was on to something with Eric Hutchinson’s Sounds Like This.

Sounds Like This has been out for awhile now — a long while, if you count its original incarnation as a self-released title — but to their immense credit, Warner Bros. has taken the slow-build approach to Hutchinson, staggering its pitches to AAA radio and media outlets, the upshot being that I’m just now spinning the shit out of an album that’s been out since April.

Better late than never, because Hutchinson is a songwriter worth hearing. Yes, he’s just another dude with a guitar — and yes, he does bear a passing, superficial resemblance to the similar-sounding artists you love to hate. But where the great majority of Hutchinson’s peers imitate classic pop’s form without getting close to its function, Sounds Like This offers 10 punchy, effortlessly memorable tracks that cover all the bases, from tearstained ballads to handclaps-and-horns uptempo tracks.

Best of all, by sticking to his 10 best cuts, Hutchinson avoids getting stale; Sounds Like This comes and goes in a hair under 38 minutes — just enough time, in other words, for you to decide you want to hear the whole thing over again. I wouldn’t exactly call the album eclectic, but the songs are varied enough to keep things interesting, and the production carries a classic pop vibe that’s damn near impossible to resist — loads of electric piano, touches of brass, and the requisite stacks of harmony vocals abound. (Special kudos are due producer Will Golden and mixer Neal H. Pogue for delivering an album that doesn’t sound like it’s had its dynamic range squeezed out by a sausage press.)

I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say Eric Hutchinson is one for the ages, but what I can tell you is that I’ve listened to what feels like nine dozen albums by young singer/songwriters this year, and Sounds Like This is easily the best of the bunch. Give “You Don’t Have to Believe Me” (download) a try, and see what you think.