Release Date: 24 April 2020
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He may have returned to the U.K., but Brian Christinzio's post-deportation blues remain, as do his mental health struggles, which suffered further damage after the sudden death of his father. Fortunately, his sharp wit and gallows humor are in abundance on Shortly After Takeoff, the Philadelphian singer/songwriter's third album since relocating to Manchester, getting signed to Bella Union, getting deported, and eventually moving back. Working under the name BC Camplight, Christinzio writes literate, self-effacing, darkly funny songs about his personal life in a tone similar to Stephin Merritt or Father John Misty, though his pop savvy recalls the sophistication of Brian Wilson or Todd Rundgren, albeit with a maverick synth-punk streak. Following 2018's cathartic Deportation Blues, Shortly After Takeoff completes what he refers to as his Manchester trilogy and the specter of his father's passing looms large within these enigmatic pop songs. An eerie textural atmosphere hangs like a mist throughout the album which dips and dives in surprising bursts of melody, harmony, and unexpected discord. Christinzio is a master craftsman in terms of song structure, building tension and discomfort only to provide a glorious uplift and rhythmic shift on the chorus of opener, "I Only Drink When I'm Drunk." The wonderful "Back to Work" follows a similar path in reverse, delivering cinematic verses that reference his mother and Die Hard in a soaring falsetto before upending the cart into a stuttering sludgy chorus. "Cemetery Lifestyle," another highlight, stands as the album's most upbeat cut and offers plenty to love in terms of wonky production -- cheap-sounding Casios, Theremin, surf organ -- and playful Nilsson-esque charm. Among the album's heaping bouquet of standouts is Christinzio's pièce de résistance, "Ghosthunting," an exquisitely crafted orchestral mini-suite concerning his father's death that begins with a faux standup routine and segues into an emotionally haunting ballad beset with understated comic zingers like "at the funeral, my cousin, he asked me in small talk, 'are you making the people dance?' I said 'sure' and thought to myself, 'who does he think I am, Tame Impala?'" Written from the heart and dredged from pop music's boneyard, Shortly After Takeoff feels like the album Christinzio has been working toward his whole career.
- Timothy Monger, Allmusic