Under Review

Wayne Petti

City Lights Align (Outside Records)

Review By Greg McMullen

Toronto’s Wayne Petti is best known for his work fronting Canadian touring band Cuff the Duke and orchestral pop vibraphone sensations the Hylozoists. City Lights Align is Petti’s first officially released solo album, a more polished and studio-tweaked version of the untitled disc he’s been hawking at shows.
Musically, City Lights Align largely sticks to the tried and true formula of acoustic guitar and simple percussion, and it works. This re-recorded version offers a bit more instrumental depth than the show-only offering that preceded it, adding a rich organ and even some drum machines on a few tracks. Despite the added instrumentation, Petti’s lyrics are what both makes and breaks this album.
At his best, Petti manages to find the perfect alignment of folk music and city lights, creating a new folky-country sound that retains the lonely blue collar sensibilities of old country while weaving through stories and themes relevant to young, modern citydwellers. “Up on the Hillside” perhaps best exemplifies this, dealing with relationships, spirituality, underpaying jobs, politics, and how there’s always someone better than him “with money, at sports, or philosophy.” Petti runs with one idea until distracted by another without losing the overall mood and even admits his own disjointed nature, jokingly stating that “a short attention span takes me to the next line.”
The trouble comes when Petti veers into more sentimental territory. While he manages some clever turns of phrase in “Moment by Moment” and “I Wait,” love songs like “I’ll Be With You” are unforgivably sappy. Lines like “with every pirate movie that I see, I will think of you” belong in unsophisticated dorm room serenades and should never find their way onto actual albums. City Lights Align is mostly solid, but this kind of filler is frustrating, making me wish that Petti released an EP rather than stretching this effort to album length. Still, for a Cuff the Duke fan, this album will serve to bridge the gap till the band releases their next.