Greg Cartwright’s soulful garage-rock outfit Reigning Sound is responsible for one of the decade’s best albums—2002’s Time Bomb High School—but has spent much of the rest of the ’00s off-road. The 2004 LP Too Much Guitar is terrific in its own way, but replaces Time Bomb’s warm, winning vibe with atypical ear-splitting volume, while the 2005 leftovers record Home For Orphans hews too close to stately folk-rock. Since then, the band has been idle, with Cartwright off producing multiple non-Reigning Sound projects. So initially, Reigning Sound fans are likely to react to the 14-track, 35-minute Love And Curses by being grateful for its very existence.
Once that initial euphoria wears off, Love And Curses still generates plenty of highs. Cartwright’s songwriting draws on Stax, Sun, and the Brill Building, combining a classic pop structure—simple and memorable—with a fair amount of only-got-this-studio-booked-for-an-hour immediacy. Aside from one misstep—the album-closing sea shanty “Banker And A Liar,” which sounds almost like a Decemberists parody—Love And Curses offers one winner after another, each in the mode of Reigning Sound’s cover of The Glass Sun’s garage-rock chestnut “Stick Up For Me.” Cartwright has absorbed his influences to such a degree that he can generate instantly likeable songs like “Trash Talk,” “The Bells,” and “Broken Things” seemingly off the cuff, proving anew how a brisk tempo and the warm buzz of organ and guitar can make even the most desperate pronouncement sound like an invitation.