Jon Brion is known primarily for his work as a producer for artists like Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann or as a film composer, notably for PT Anderson. What often gets overlooked are his incredible power pop chops. Brion did his time in the legendary Jellyfish and was part of the one-and-done brilliance of The Grays. The guy is one of the best songwriters in the genre, which makes his prolonged recording absence — he hosts frequent live reviews at Largo in L.A. — so distressing.
In 2000, Brion released his lone solo album, the exquisite Meaningless. The 11 songs on the record pull from several styles of music while retaining the core power pop elements – hooks, harmonies, and heart. Gotta Start Somewhere opens the opus, it’s swelling chorus a sign of things to come. The runaway train I Believe She’s Lying, which follows, is a breathless explosion of speed pop. I imagine playing this one is a rush — probably why Rhett Miller covers it on his solo album, The Believer.
Brion switches things up with the jaunty Walking Through Walls, a song that Rufus Wainwright might consider if he’s looking for a more obscure cover to attack. Speaking of covers, the album’s closer is an emotional version of Cheap Trick’s Voices that reaches into the depths of the track and yanks out its still-beating heart.
And heart is what makes Meaningless such a keeper. Brion imbues every song with sincerity and commitment. Not only are the 11 pop nuggets bona fide earworms, they’re also extremely meaningful. Meaningless is anything but, and it’s a key piece of my power pop heart.