Is Mac McCaughan the coolest dude in the world? Probably. Most of you probably know him as the mastermind behind Merge Records... you know, that little teeny indie label who has been treating the music-loving world to some of best new bands in indie rock for over a decade. Perhaps you know him as the frontman of Superchunk, who told major labels to shove their advance money up their asses in favor of staying true to their indie rock roots and the unlimited freedom it provided them. Or maybe you even know him as the guy that made The Bravery's Sam Endicott sound like a douche (not that he needed any help) at a SXSW panel on how to have a long career in the music business (from an artist's perspective), when Mr. Giant Fauxhawk said something along the lines of the only reason Nirvana was as big as they were was because they were on a major label. Now, what you may or may not know is that McCaughan is also a solo artist and has been recording under the Portastatic moniker for over a decade. His latest effort, Bright Ideas, was just the icing on the cake for me. Why? Because it's f*cking great. It's an album from a guy who has been doing this whole music thing on his own terms throughout the course of his long career and that sense of idealism can be felt within every song on this record.
Bouncing back and forth between acoustic-based singer/songwriter tracks and electric guitar-led indie rock songs, the album draws on the indie rock, low-fi pop songs of the early '90s, but still has two feet firmly planted in the new millennium. It starts off with the crawling acoustic title track, backed with deep, whispery vocals and swirly, electro-feedback ambience. Clocking in at over five minutes, it's a song about disappointment with lyrics like, "Every step I take is part of my path, but none of my jokes ever make me laugh / Sometimes you want to put the past in the past, but every generation gets bit in the ass." The somber tune is then followed by an indie pop gem, one of many, that starts with an electric guitar intro pulled right from your favorite early '90s indie rock song (it doesn't really matter which one). Expertly crafted and beautifully written, Bright Ideas is track after track of pure and simple great music made by a great musician and a forward thinking music business idealist. It's been on repeat on my iTunes for a week, and with almost 19 days worth of music to choose from, that's saying a lot.