23-Year-Old Avi Buffalo Offers a Strong Sophomore Release

16 Oct

With a name like Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, young Avi was probably never destined to be a baseball star. Fortunately, his talents and interests drew him toward music. So, while the other kids in his Long Beach high school were dreaming of sports championships, proms and colleges to attend, Avi and his pals decided to make an album.

The result was 2010’s surprisingly well-received, self-titled debut, featuring the single “What’s In It For,” which was released shortly after he graduated.

Now Avi Buffalo — as the band is known — is back with a new collection of indie rock and twee pop songs on an album called At Best Cuckold. By the way, the only explanation I could find for how Avi earned the Buffalo name is that one of his friends starting calling him that due to his fondness for Buffalo wings. Ahhh, the pleasures of high school!

But back to the music. At Best Cuckold reminds me of some of the playful pop-rock that came out of the 1970s. Think Todd Rundgren on his lighter tracks. Or today, you might find a similarity with some of Sondre Lerche’s material.

The melodies are tuneful and catchy. The lyrics veer toward the weird at times, but are always personal and imaginative — not formulaic. And some of the songs, such as “Oxygen” include long prog-rock-like guitar solos — in a style that might make George Harrison proud.

The album starts with “So What,” which is jangly and up-tempo and showcases Avi in his highest registers. Track 7, “She is Seventeen,” is my next favorite. The piano is very 1970s — a throwback to Elton John or the Beatles — with Avi’s vocals real and raw.

“Can’t Be Too Responsible” is a bit darker as Avi explores the challenges in building relationships and making life-changing decisions. The arrangement is strummy and stays with you.

A great example of the attractive weirdness on At Best Cuckold is “Oxygen Tank,” the second-to-last track on the album. “A man carrying an oxygen tank is gonna come kill me and my family too/if I don’t stop seeing you/If I don’t start seeing through those lies you tell me everyday/I know it’s not the same things you say to him.” Avi was quoted in an interview as saying the lyrics came from a dream he had. I buy that. Oh by the way, there’s a great dueling guitar solo over the last two minutes or so of the song.

The concluding track, “Won’t Be Around No More” finds Avi back in his highest registers over a song that starts folky and strummy, but also layers in distorted electric guitar as the song progresses.

Avi is only 23, and this is another impressive collection of songs from the singer/songwriter. There are a couple of otherwise excellent songs that KZSU won’t be able to play — unfortunate use of the F-word — but overall, it’s a really nice listen. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

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