By the end of Tranquilizer (released March 29), the new long-player from Bay Area singer-songwriter Kiyoshi Foster, one wonders how heâ€™s not rubbing shoulders on the airwaves with Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews and recent singles from elder statesmen like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. Kid is just that solid, a real natural at songs that feel familiar right from the first spin without being derivative. Itâ€™s just another sign that talent isnâ€™t really the barometer of success or general awareness anymore.
Heâ€™s surrounded himself with some of the best (and equally undeservedly unsung) musicians in the region, roping in guitar-god-in-waiting Sean Leahy Tracorumâ€™s Mark Calderon (bass) & Fletcher Neilsen (keys), Tea Leaf Greenâ€™s Trevor Garrod (keys), and other choice collaborators. Despite the mix of constituent parts Tranquilizer moves of a piece, the pacing and sequencing beckoning one towards the emotional ending, dropping ska-wise skippers and floating reflections amongst the purely catchy stuff. â€œColors so vivid I remember every single one/ All the music all around/ Magic sounds coming up from the underground,â€ croons Foster with a mischievous edge to his strong, breezy voice on â€œYesteryears,â€ just one of several numbers that seems like itâ€™s already a radio friend. This is music that would sound just right blasting out of boom boxes at the beach or over a car stereo, loud with the windows down, sun big and bright above, the wind tousling oneâ€™s hair.
At several points, Foster strongly brings to mind Bruce Hornsby at his easy going best â€“ a craftsman supreme who never lets the listener see his hard work. â€œLove You So Madly,â€ â€œGolden Streetsâ€ and â€œEchoes of Youâ€ would all have been hits for Hornsby, but for an un-established talent like Foster itâ€™s a tougher nut to crack. Still, Tranquilizer shows Foster maturing into the kind of artist that may give these old hands a run for their money one day. This is what I call â€œGood Companion Music,â€ pop inflected rock that sits comfortably in the passenger seat of our lives, ready for any road we travel down, there to offer us snippets of wisdom and a pleasant tune we can sing-along with.