Joe Adragna’s a pop purist. As the Junior League, he embraced pop’s exuberance as well as the craft that makes great songs. On Fall Back, the energy’s dialed down and the mood’s a little autumnal, but his affection for a beautiful song is clear, as is his desire to make pop that stays with you for more than the three minutes most of his songs take to say their piece. Sometimes it’s a chorus that catches you—the Byrds-like “You’re Gonna Die Alone,” which doesn’t celebrate that knowledge—a melody you’d like to move into (“Ladders”) or a line that draws you into the song (“I don’t mind drinking until I’m hollow,” for example, in “Far Away”).
Beyond his craft, Adragna’s strength is his voice. He doesn’t show a lot of range on Fall Back, but he doesn’t need to. The warm naturalness of his voice makes his songs sound personal—less like performances and more like things he was thinking about set to four-four time. He plays most of the instruments and would benefit from a more agile rhythm section, but being a one-man band generally suits him well. He gets guest spots from Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Susan Cowsill, but they fit seamlessly into his songs, perhaps because they’re pop purists too.