Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
A quick glance at the résumé of Josh Lattanzi, frontman of New York City’s The Candles, reveals an impressive performance history. He spent the last 10 years playing bass with The Lemonheads, Ben Kweller and Albert Hammond Jr., and along with fellow Candles Jason Roberts, Pete Remm and Greg Wieczorek, performed as a member of Norah Jones’ live ensemble. Yet when stepping into a lead role, as he does on The Candles’ sophomore album La Candelaria, Lattanzi evokes the charm and confidence of a headliner. Stacked 10 songs high with shimmering power-pop melodies and rich, Americana arrangements, La Candelaria ably splits the difference between Big Star and The Byrds. Where “Hello Blue” is built on rich layers of electric guitar jangle and Rhodes organ, “Blind Light” presents a thick strata of brushed drums, slide guitar and piano. And standout track “As Far As I Know” makes a seamless transition from spare, finger-picked acoustic ballad to boisterous, full-band country rock. Though The Candles mine a lot of familiar influences — Wilco, Grateful Dead and Jackson Browne, to name a few — their songwriting more than holds its own, making La Candelaria a pleasant summertime pop surprise.