Following stints as Portis Project and penning tunes for major-label artists, Pittsburgh-based singer-songwriter Justin Portis is back with Yours Truly, a trio that features drummer Eric Downs and well-known area producer and bassist DJ Huggy. The resulting five-track EP, The Colorage, offers complex pop rock with taut rhythms that highlights Portis' smooth, melismatic tenor and prodigious guitar skills.
The CD kicks off with the horns-driven rocker "The Crown," followed by the syncopated guitars and Coheed-ish vocal harmonies of "Last Chance," both upbeat chronicles of attempts to woo a girl, with Downs tickling the hi-hats a la Stewart Copeland. The disc closes with "Don't Look Down," which packs a triumphant Foo Fighters vibe and ends with some post-grunge guitar shred.
Track three, "She Taps for Tips," is the pleasantly weird one, opening with finger-picked electric guitar and high vocals that hint a Jeff Buckley influence. Once the verse comes in, that influence seems to morph toward the ballads of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with dry, funky guitars and Portis' voice evoking Anthony Keidis and Thom Yorke.
Portis' fiery, almost Latin-sounding leads are a frequent feature, such as the blazin' solo on "In the Friscalating Dusklight"; if you're one of those who thinks even the Ramones overplay at times, you'll find The Colorage a bit of a muso wank. But while the musicianship is impressive -- and they seem cool with you knowing that -- it's hardly excessive, and Yours Truly's groovy modern rock should find an appreciative audience among musicians and non-musicians alike.