Like a pair of well-worn blue jeans, Max Indian's You Can Go Anywhere, Do Anything feels just right. Forgive frontman Carter Gaj if he sounds familiar, as the Chapel Hill singer-songwriter mines several decades of pop genius. From the delicious harmonies and hooks of The Beatles and Badfinger to a distorted take on The Byrds' chime and Big Star's jangle, all played with a bit of Elvis Costello's and Joe Jackson's new wave spirit, you'll recognize the cues from which Max Indian leaps.
The earthy production of You Can Go Anywhere adds to its timeless nature. Vocals are dabbed in reverb, and there's very little mixed up front, lending a classic AM radio sound. Backward guitar opens "Together at Last," with studio chatter and a crowd of vocals adding a freewheeling vibe to a chorus plucked from hippie mantra. James Wallace's piano bounce gives "Whatever Goes Up" a carefree breeze perfect for a sidewalk shuffle.
While handclaps and upbeat tempos make for songs that sound cheery, the record's not all sunshine and smiles lyrically. Gaj ruminates on mortality from the dreamy haze of the aptly titled "Big Picture" while almost giddily recounting post-breakup defeat in "Now I Know." Gaj remains eternally optimistic but hopelessly romantic, as the loping "Heaven Help Us" proves with soaring guitar and a "won't be a thing if you ain't got love" mission statement.
You Can Go Anywhere finds itself in the same eclectic pop neighborhood as Wilco's Being There, whether it's next door with the dead-ringing organ and acoustic strum of album opener "Free as the Wind" or four blocks over with the oblique Tweedy allusion "though you're out of sight/ you're never out of mind" in the midst of the blustery "Easy to Imagine." It's all a bit summery for a mid-December release, but while plummeting temperatures and biting wind remind us once again that those threadbare jeans may not be cut out for wintertime at all, You Can Go Anywhere, Do Anything stands as one of the better local albums released this year—cold winds, bright sun and all.
For more on Max Indian, see this week's cover story, "Used guitars." The band releases You Can Go Anywhere, Do Anything with a show at Local 506 Saturday, Dec. 13, at 10 p.m. with The Old Ceremony and The Love Language. Tickets are $8.