Essential New Music: Kelley Stoltz’s “Que Aura”

Some folks do their best to sound like their heroes; Kelley Stoltz once did a note-for-note re-creation of Echo & The Bunnymen’s Crocodiles. More recently, the Bunnymen hired him to be their touring rhythm guitarist, so that particular recreative need has probably been satisfied for the foreseeable future. And since Stoltz is a diligent and omnivorous student of beloved pop-music craft, he has plenty of other styles to unpack and reassemble on Que Aura. The sounds of early-’80s MTV drum-machine pop, ascendant Eagles funk, machine-age Iggy Pop and a whole lot of early-to-mid-’70s radio soul get stirred into the soup, some in great big lumps and others as subliminal spices. The accomplishment is immaculate, but what’s harder to sort out is where the real Kelley Stoltz stands. My money is on “Walking Against The Greenlight,” which sets unusually specific lyrics about the anxiety of mortality to a zippy bongos-and-synths backing track. As long as he’s making music you can hum, he’s alive.

—Bill Meyer