When I hit play on this album from singer-songwriter and multi instrumentalist Chad Sugg, I was expecting something that sounded more like Never Shout Never than The Rocket Summer. What this CD actually is a bit of a departure from either. The first track on the CD, "Elliot Smith Is Still Alive" starts with a folksy slow piano intro, then transitions smoothly into a pop-friendly up tempo guitar riff. There's an interesting southern tinge noticeable in Sugg's vocals that sets him apart from other more polished pop-rock vocalists and gives the music one more touch that sets it apart.
The opening track sets the mood for the record, which is a great collection of feel good guitar powered sing alongs that tiptoe on the edge of folk. "1996" is a quick foot tapper with an infectious hook of "Goddamn, it's a great day for a love song." The lyrics are a great example of Sugg's writing style, not quite bitter, but more indifferent to the downs in life, with lines such as "Well, while we're at it, let's get down to the facts. I loved you more, you loved me less." that he manages to pull off with an impression of a shrug and a smile instead of venom. This lyrical tone is the best asset to the album, making this album thoroughly enjoyable to the preteen sing-along set as well as those who are a little older and able to appreciate the "such is life" attitude. "You Are The One That Will Be By My Side" sounds like a happier version of a Bright Eyes song, running strong on only an acoustic guitar riff and the folk-singer-esque vocals and some nice lyrical metaphors as well like "I realized my life was just a book in a pile of past due memories lost and pushed to the side."
My favorite track on the album is the last, titled "Good Ghosts".. The lyric that the title of the album was pulled from "So this is what it's come to, another ten years of guessing when and where the good years will find me. I drew all over my arms, the words to my favorite songs. When I hate the world they remind me not to," is one of my absolute favorites and is another great example of the finely honed balance of optimism and realism that makes Sugg's lyrics so memorable. The album is finished off with a gang vocal that you find yourself singing along to by the end even though you've never heard the song before.
While the sunny mood of the record might lead some to write Chad Sugg off as just another boy with a guitar, and the read-from-a-journal-page familiarity in the lyrics might suggest the same, a closer look sets Backseat Goodbye apart as something a little more mature and intricate. The melodies are a bit more complicated, and the lyrics are definitely optimistic, but there's a nice touch of realism in them to take the edge of the sugar sweet pop. The album is a good listen all the way through, though it suffers from a few minor wobbles. "Yellow Brick Roads" gets a little cheesy at times ("I caught some clouds and made you a stairway to heaven,") and ""Infinity and Beyond" suffers from a drumbeat that almost overshadows the vocals and guitar, but Backseat Goodbye has both the accessibility to get people listening and the talent to keep them wanting more. The Good Years is an album that is satisfying in itself, but even more for the potential Backseat Goodbye brings to the table to be something even greater the next time around.
4 out of 5 by Freelancer Dani Palmer