Pie (Palo Santo Records)
Reviewed by Alejandra Ramirez, Fri., Aug. 16, 2019
In 2003, while still lead guitarist for local king Bob Schneider, Billy Harvey would isolate himself on the back of the tour bus and write songs. Sixteen years and a slew of DIY and studio releases later, his sophomore album sees a remastered reissue, vinyl release, and bonus tracks that recapture the singer-songwriter who produced local favorites Dear Danger (2015) and Elephants in the Room (2017).
Properly released in 2004, Pie unveiled a pop panache underlined by an underdog streak that doubles down on juvenile chagrin in "Like a Boy" and the youthful malaise of "Dope Wings." Like Beck and Wilco, the Illinois-born journeyman demonstrated a willingness to explore a plethora of genres funneled into fine-tuned hooks. Harvey's expanding diorama of anthemic rock ("Invisible," "Belly Up") and bare-bones acoustics ("Dealer Plates," "Bluebird") features crafty bass work from his longtime bassist George Reiff, who passed in 2017 from cancer.
Zealous naivete threads opener "Stupid Daniel" as lo-fi electronics and overdriven thumps segue into staccato bass backbone and R2-D2 blips in "Piggyback Ride." His lurching warble and free-flow insouciance seesaw with repetitive bass fuzz, evincing a catatonic cool in "Dope Wings," while twofer "Supergrey" and "Barnaby Jonze" bends to his neurotic synth play, Ambien-dosed flows, and jaunty piano lines. Through idiosyncratic left turns into Americana addled The Arsonist in 2018, Pie now ranks toward the top of Austin's unsung treasures.