The debut solo album “Boutique Sound Frames” from P.J. Farley of Trixter fame might be a bit of surprise to some but as Farley himself describes these are songs that he has written over the years that just never fit a particular project he was working on at the time. Besides Trixter, where P.J. has manned the bass guitar position since the band’s debut in 1990, he has also had stints with 90’s rockers RA amongst a few others over the last 27 years of his musical career. So even though this is a brand new release what we get here is a collection of some personal songs from the P.J. Farley archives. I found it an interesting in that as I listened I would try to imagine the era or project that P.J. may have wrote the songs for. You certainly get a vibe of more modern rock and even an introspective singer/songwriter sound on the material but Farley describes them as “classic sounding” and that really is a good description. He isn’t trying to pat himself on the back with that description but what I believe he meant was they are timeless songs, so even if some of them might be as much as twenty years old, they don’t sound necessarily all that dated.
“Boutique Sound Frames” opens with what I would describe as the maybe the most eclectic sounding song of the collection as “Take It Straight” has an quirky or alternative sound to it. The “psychedelic” nature has the feel of something P.J. (along with Steve Brown of Trixter) were doing with the Throwan Rocks band they formed just after Trixter went on hiatus in the mid-90’s. It’s a little trippy sounding but also retains a certain melodic nature. Overall it might a little left of center for some.
“You’d Stick Out” is the first song that is featured as a single (if you want to call it that these days) and it even has a cool video Farley shot for it at the legendary Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ on a snowy day. The song is a slick rock track with great catchy chorus and strong vocal delivery from Farley. Think of the 90’s sounds of bands like Tonic, Lifehouse or Vertical Horizon. Those bands, even if some write them off as 90’s alt rock, always had something a little more in their sound that leaned to the melodic rock side of things and so does “You’d Stick Out”. It’s a strong track that really should get some attention.
“Things We Hold Onto” has more of that 90’s modern melodic rock flair with maybe a little more current styling’s akin something from David Cook (of American Idol fame) but ultimately is more organic and less pop sounding than Cook. Its mid-tempo pace is slick and catchy with a strong hook. “Ain’t No Good” is back to that Throwan Rocks sound with a more Beatles-y, trippy feel. I was a fan of Throwan Rocks for the short period they were around and was able to catch them live numerous times on the Jersey circuit. They were a cool band for the time with a throw-back sound of fuzz rock meets the Beatles.
“SuckerPunch” brings back the more polished sound with a bit of a Lifehouse feel as it is moody but still catchy and Farley’s vocals are also close in style to that of Lifehouse mainman Jason Wade. It’s another quality track that truly should get some attention in some way, shape or form if the music business wasn’t in such disarray. Subsequent track “The Fallen” is more of the same with the flair of The Calling stemming from the catchy almost poppy chorus. It’s another track, like many on “Boutique Sound Frames” that reminds of the 90’s rock sound but when the songs are good they truly are timeless just as Farley indicates. “Keepin’ It All Together” is reminiscent on 40’ Ft. Ringo (another Farley/Brown post-Trixter band) and I wonder if it was written in that era while “A Place In The Sun” is moody with a subdued vocal delivery from Farley.
“Vow” is a favorite of mine off the record as it has sounds of The Calling and Lifehouse. It’s got a great hook and classic, airy chorus with its acoustic guitar. It’s yet another strong track which certainly would garner some attention in a just music world. “The Afterglow” is decently crafted but does come off as a little familiar to other tracks on the album so maybe isn’t ultimately the most memorable.
The album ends with “What You Do” and it’s a song that jumped out at me upon initial listens to the record as the strong chorus was an attention grabber for me. I like the lyrical content, as it’s a great melancholy track in the singer/songwriter vein.
Overall, “Boutique Sound Frames” is a solid collection of songs that paints an impressive and maybe unexpected turn from P.J. Farley but it shows some nice depth in his songwriting. The only minor issue I had is many of the songs had a similar tempo and with maybe just a couple more uptempo songs it would have given the album a touch more variety. Still, song for song there is some quality and classy melodic rock for a new era here. When looking at the context of what “Boutique Sound Frames” is, a collection of archival songs, it’s nice to hear these songs for what they are… timeless rock.