The paradox of rock critics who cross the write/play line lies in the jaundiced analytic vision needed to review pop for a living. Making music takes belief in one’s instincts and imagination, a trait pretty much ruined by the ability to deconstruct creative efforts into their components and coldly trace them back to their sources. Writers usually have the good sense (or cowardice) not to suck in public — there’s too much honor at stake and too many indefensible slag-offs in the closet to live down-but that doesn’t mean many possess the talent to surpass the mediocrity they’re so quick to deride in others.
All of which is by way of acknowledging the impressive quality of New York journalist Dimitri Ehrlich’s self-released album. Well played and solidly written, Everything Is Naked is a slick, handsomely arranged production whose diverse stylings (soft funk, rich pop, soul-flecked rock) circle around a central core of early Joe Jackson. Possessing a certain vocal resemblance, the singer/guitarist seems to have followed it to Jackson’s structural doorstep. The album has a few silly songs (“Big Dreams”) and a couple of overly emotional ones (“I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Eira I Tried”), but “You Let Me Down Easy (You Never See Me Again),” a saga of love spurned, is a poignant gem. “Once I was the man of your dreams/Now I’m just a phone call you don’t wanna return,” Ehrlich complains, going on to lay out the situation’s existential terror: “What if I was born to love only you/And what if I die that way, too?” Such anxiety over lost opportunities undoubtedly motivates a lot of would-be musicians as well; if his love life doesn’t work out, Ehrlich can at least be satisfied on one score here.