David Kilgour suffuses '60s psych-folk jangle with a light, atmospheric drone, like a vibrant, pastoral watercolor translated into pop music. Shiny hooks glitter through shimmering textures, fueled by a crisp tenor and the dulcet ring of strummed strings. The somnambulant grace of Kilgour's songs is that of Ambien dreams, suggesting a marriage of the prickly beauty of Mojave 3 and the lavish warmth of an understated Love.
Of course, Kilgour started long before the shoegazers or dream pop. The New Zealander led The Clean, whose music in the late '70s and early '80s for Flying Nun would influence a generation of bands from the Bats (with ex-Clean bassist Robert Scott) to The Chills and The Verlaines. He's been releasing solo albums since 1991, but he's not exactly Lou Reed in his homeland.
"I have a high profile, but everything I've done as a solo act has been in the shadow of The Clean," he says from a tour stop in Cleveland. "I get a lot of lip-service and pats on the back for all I've done, but I certainly don't sell a lot of records in New Zealand. So coming here is no great different really."
Kilgour is in America supporting his sixth solo release, The Far Now. It's populated by songs alternately blurry and ringing and sunny and resonant, a fine palliative after a stressful day. Catchy but not attention-hungry, Kilgour tracks like "BBC World" with it sweet rootsy twang and "Wave of Love" with its reverb ripples, make a pleasant impression without pressing any issue.
Kilgour is as unprepossessing as his songs, readily admitting his musical debt to other artists. "It's all been done before," he says. "Rock 'n' roll is a very simple thing." Beauty doesn't need complication.
David Kilgour plays Duke Coffeehouse Thursday, Nov. 15, at 8:30 p.m. with Euros Child and Minchia. Tickets are $7.