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like-the-season.jpgJosh Ottum
Like the Season
Cheap Lullaby Records

By all accounts, Josh Ottum is the quintessential come-from behind artist. No, really. He literally recorded songs in his basement and then suddenly burst out of nowhere to rave reviews. Is it cliché? Probably, but there’s no denying his musical talent. There’s plenty proof of it on his debut album, Like the Season, a mellifluous mix of beats and chords that’ll keep listeners tapping their toes.

The first line of evidence, “It’s Alright,” is a smooth, poppy melody that is rather like some Bailey’s in a cup of coffee—silky, smooth, and utterly delicious. That might as well describe most of Like the Season, the equivalent of background music or that TV show people have going on as they do paperwork/homework/sit down to dinner or whatever. An even better description, would be a peppier Ben Folds, minus the angst (what is it with all these Ben Folds influenced artists anyway? First Adam Marsland, then this guy…).

In the pantheon of singer-songwriters, Ottum is Folds mixed in with a little Steely Dan for fair measure. “Pipe Dreams,” for example, could easily have appeared on Donald Fagen’s Kamakiriad album, circa 1993. Sometimes those influences push him in strange and sometimes irksome directions—“If This Mirror Could Only Talk,” anyone? There is no denying his technical talent however. As with many of the musicians we’ve profiled, he’s a top notch when it comes to his mastery of strings, electronics, etc (which should be the true judge of talent, but we all know how much of a, uh, pipe dream that is).
Casual listeners may be put off by some of his more artistic endeavors. But let’s not kid ourselves—he’s a talented pop artist in his own right. The same can’t be said of some of his better known contemporaries. But Ottum could be like our dirty, little, secret. Who needs those other guys anyway?

At $8 from Cheapy Lullaby ($11 from Amazon), Like the Season isn’t exactly a smooth merlot, but if you like your poison a little on the avant garde side, it’s the perfect weekend chaser.

–Jack Winn