The first sentence of Kelley Stoltz’s artist bio on AllMusic.com nicely sums up all of the key touchstones in his musical mix, even as it charts his professional and geographic journey: “Singer/songwriter Kelly Stoltz grew up in the Detroit area, but eventually found his way to San Francisco after taking a detour to New York City, where he worked in the mailroom at Jeff Buckley’s management company.”
This is to say, San Francisco psychedelic pop, heartfelt folk-rock, New York art-punk minimalism, Detroit garage-rock growl—yep, they’re all here on album number seven Double Exposure. But as obvious as this shopping list of ingredients may be, Stoltz’s stew is somehow fresh and invigorating beyond the output of all but the very best of his peers in the burgeoning Bay Area scene of home-recording auteurs, placing him in the first rank along with Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall.
Having parted ways with Sub Pop but been embraced by Jack White’s Third Man label, Stoltz has gone back to basics on his first album since To Dreamers in 2010, concentrating as hard on song craft as he does on sonic wizardry. The more straightforward, Velvet Underground/Strokes-style subway-train rhythms only highlight the sophisticated melodies and simple yet effective lyrical observations of songs such as “Storms,” “Are You My Love,” “Kim Chee Taco Man,” and “It’s Summertime Again.” And just as the familiar influences fail to detract from the accomplishment, the varied instrumental palette and the occasional trippy production flourishes only add to the fun of what would still be great songs if delivered only with an acoustic guitar and a lone voice.
Kelley Stoltz, Double Exposure (Third Man Records)
Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.