John Leitera and Dave Rubin got to know each other in mid-'90s Pittsburgh, when their respective bands shared numerous club dates. Guitarist Leitera played garage pop with Youngstown-via-Pittsburgh band Boogie Man Smash, while Rubin played bass in Blogurt, a group somewhat inaccurately remembered as joke rock due to its zany stage presence. Although their bands approached the pop concept from drastically different angles, both musicians shared a love for classic song structure, as patented by groups like The Beatles. So when they joined forces in San Francisco, and later relocated to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, they continued their quest for the perfect pop song.
Twisting the Neck of the Swan, the third CD by their group Low Water (which is rounded out by drummer Joe Burch), is straightforward, rootsy pop with a thoughtful lyrical bent and a fondness for subtle trimmings that give the music extra depth.
Containing just six songs that last 34 minutes, it could be regarded as either a short album or a long EP, but pound for pound it offers more sustenance than many longer discs. "Losing My Faith in Motown" juxtaposes a break-up story with the idea that the famous label's hits aren't even strong enough to salvage the relationship. Centered on Leitera's understated vocal, the group fills the scenery with trumpet blasts evocative of vintage soul, a sea of back-up vocals and a raunchy guitar that punctuates the chorus.
In "Voodoo Taxi," Low Water's Wilco leanings come out a little more, but they take things one step further. As the song seems to be winding down with a standard coda, it swells up once more in a lush blend of guitar and voices before wrapping up -- it's a simple tag, but it sticks with you after the song ends.
But Twisting the Neck's centerpiece is "Charge," an 11-minute suite that moves through several brief segments, without any of the pretension that accompanies such a set-up. The lads add layers of backing vocals that sound like a choir when heard through headphones. Along with Rubin's additional autoharp, keys and other instruments, Pittsburgh native and regular collaborator Jason Titus adds Fender Rhodes and more trumpet. Some sections last only a few lines before moving to the next part, but Leitera's lyrical thread unifies the whole piece. Low Water might call Williamsburg home, but the hipster trappings of that neighborhood won't be heard on this album.
Low Water with Good Night, States. 10:30 p.m. Fri., Feb. 27. Club Café, 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. 412-431-4950 or www.clubcafelive.com