It’s interesting to me that I came across a band named Drew Martin and the Limelights at almost the same time as JD Eicher and the Goodnights. It’s not just their names that are similar, either: Both play modern pop with the Goo Goo Dolls firmly in the RIYLs. Eicher relies on a tempered melodic bent for his differentiating factor; Martin just goes for the pop throat. He doesn’t connect every time, but you can’t say that he held back.
“Calling Your Bluff” has the anthemic chorus to make stadiums sing (“Days here are beautiful/and sometimes cold/just like you-ou!”) with just the right amount of emotive resonance to sell it. It’s a windows-down summer song, for sure. “Hit and Run” scales it back, showcasing Martin’s emotive vocal tone and lyrical abilities to great effect. “Once Was” is a white doo-wop tune with a standout chorus.
It’s not a perfect release: “Bring the Light” conflates “motion” with “melody” as the main draw, while the verses of “Once Was” can be tedious. “Just Call Me” is the sort of overblown sentiment that made “modern pop” a pariah in the first place. Only one of these songs drops below four minutes; Martin could stand to tighten things up a bit. But as a glove tossed in the ring, there have been far, far worse.
Eicher’s been kickin’ it longer than Martin, and it shows. Martin and his band have some work to do. But “Calling Your Bluff” is the sort of song that makes me sign up for more releases by a band: it’s a polished diamond hanging out in the midst of lesser gems. One to watch.