Piano-rock project from Mike Grubbs, who played the green-card-chick-smitten bartender on last year’s run of TV’s One Tree Hill. Steam is picking up on this one to some degree but it remains somewhat obscure, a more or less hipsterish answer to Billy Joel and Bruce Hornsby, hence you might correctly envision acoustic piano getting eloquently whammed and pop noises coming out. Semi-famous people who try to balance TV acting and “recording careers” are notoriously un-hip, and in that tradition I didn’t expect or encounter anything Ben Folds-killing — “Dance So Good” owes props to Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” — but a sideways, borderline-ornery tude on some vocal lines does lend Grubbs scruffiness remindful of Kings of Leon to some extent. The record begins as a chamber-pop contender with the Arcade Fire-ish semi-title track “Almost Everything,” which comes complete with important-sounding fiddles squeezing out Pavlovian-response earnestness amid emo overtones. Not the most mature stuff you’ll hear this year, but there’s more than a modicum of hookage.
— Eric W. Saeger