Freedy Johnston: This Perfect World (1994)

Freedy Johnston has been quietly releasing jangly singer-songwriter music for a few decades now, usually just under the radar (though I remember this one, his third album, getting a bit of attention at the time). This is by far my favorite, a poignant blend of Americana-leaning alt.rock bands like the Gin Blossoms, the more introspective songs of power poppers like Matthew Sweet, and maybe a bit of Tom Petty's mellow heartland rock stylings and mid-period Elvis Costello's character sketches.

A few songs here are just dead-on perfect folky pop tunes which really deserve some sort of 90s-era classic rock canonization. Opener "Bad Reputation" is a bittersweet mid-tempo tune with a wistful, absolutely memorizing chorus. "Evie's Tears" is a lovely jangly ballad with hints of Paul McCartney; "Two Lovers Stop" an upbeat beat of melancholy Americana, like a great lost Jayhawks tune; "Dolores" is another infectious folky pop tune which almost feels like an Americanized version of a classic Squeeze or Elvis Costello tune; while the haunting "Across The Avenue" weaves in a distinctive 90s alt.rock edge.

Much of the rest falls on the quieter side of the spectrum, with a rustic acoustic vibe, better suited for chilling out in the sunshine than tossing on a mixtape, but still perfectly lovely. 

As with the albums that followed (I'm less partial to the two albums preceding it, where I didn't have the sense Johnston had yet found his voice), Perfect World falls into the category I call "music for friends" -- albums I can play for pretty much anyone, without knowing anything about their musical taste, and be reasonably assured they'll enjoy it.

Here's the video for "Bad Reputation":
Here's a live guitar-and-drums take on "Evie's Tears":
 Here's a solo acoustic take on "Dolores":
BTW, here's a live "Bad Reputation" -- and just check out a young Jon Stewart making the introduction!