Gramercy Arms: Deleted Scenes [Album Review]

Gramercy Arms
Deleted Scenes
Magic Door Record Label [2023]

Gramercy Arms is a NYC musical collective brought together around the songwriting of Dave Derby, who keeps the focus of this third album locked in on polished power/pop that’s inspired, as the band bio says, “by the artistic heyday of the 70’s and 80’s-era.” Derby sings, plays guitar and occasionally holds down the bass, while Kevin March of Guided By Voices drums throughout, while bassist Rainy Orteca (Joan of Police Woman), and guitarist Mike Errico appear most consistently across the album’s 10 tracks. Derby has toured with Lloyd Cole, who co-wrote and plays on “Yesterday’s Girl,” the album’s opening track. Derby also wrote “It’s Hard Not to Love You,” with guitarist Doug Gillard (also of GbV), who plays guitar on that one as well as writing the string arrangement, and also playing on “Never Say Anything.” Derby is joined by a variety of female singers, including a duet with Renee LoBue (Elk City) on “Yesterday’s Girl,” and another with Kendall Meade (Mascott) on “It’s Hard Not to Love You,” with input from Hilken Mancini, Jessie Kilguss, Claudia Chopek, and Verena Wiesendanger on a variety of backing vocals.

Derby’s songwriting centers the usual topics central to pop music over the decades. “Can your love save me?” they ask in “Yesterday’s Girl,” while “Tricky Love Stuff” is more to the point. Smart melodic hooks, bright up-tempo rhythms, and catchy choruses that invite listeners to sing along are the rule. In the fun, folk/rock single, “Fucked Up and Beautiful,” Derby sings how “She took literature and LSD/she tried to find her sexuality/I think she found it without me,” but then smartly recuts it as an airplay friendly “Messed Up and Beautiful” version. “Passing Through” is all ringing acoustic guitars, and bright airy sounds throughout, while the folk/rock duet, “It’s Hard Not to Love You” finds Derby putting his best Tom Petty pop foot forward, with Meade adding her best Stevie Nicks. Producer Ray Ketchem and Derby deliver a consistent set, crisp, clean production values, and on the too brief “Feel Your Way,” they build a wall of guitars enough to give validity to the line that “it’s only rock & roll.”

A solid, unapologetic pop/rock sound built on old school instrumentation, and catchy songwriting is rarer these days than you’d expect, making Gramercy Arms a fun, solid surprise. Deleted Scenes isn’t breaking any new ground, but fans of good songs delivered with a joyful exuberance are going to find plenty that keeps them coming back to this easy-listening collection.

“Fucked Up And Beautiful” / “Yesterday’s Girl” / “It’s Hard Not To Love You”

Lake Street Dive / The New Pornographers / Fleetwood Mac

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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