Essential New Music: Jonathan Wilson’s “Rare Birds”

Jonathan Wilson is very good at a lot of things. Emerging as an auspicious talent in an already crowded Southern California rock-revival scene, Wilson has played guitar and sung with authority while hitting all the right hipster buttons for a decade. Nowadays, as part of Roger Waters’ touring band and producing the likes of Father John Misty, Conor Oberst, Roy Harper and Johnathan Rice, Wilson is poised to move even further up the entertainment ladder. (Given 2013’s Fanfare featured contributions from David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Benmont Tench and Josh Tillman, as well as members of Wilco and Dawes, he already has a lot of rock stars’ numbers in his phone.)

On his third solo disc, the Laurel Canyon-based Wilson is brilliant and creative yet hindered by his own expansive eclecticism and purple prose. An extremely personal collection that spans a multitude of styles, Rare Birds is an ambitious psychedelic excursion set firmly in the present with sonic references abounding. From the pulsing hypnotica of “Loving You” (featuring singer Laraaji) to the profane “49 Hairflips” (with Tillman and Lana Del Rey), this 13-track, 79-minute LP contains Floydian flourishes, synth-pop anthems, hippie dreams and singer/songwriter confessionals.

—Mitch Myers