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Welsh singer/guitarist Gruff Rhys usually gets more attention for his zaniness than his psychedelic pop music. With Super Furry Animals, Rhys played concerts in a space helmet and rolled up to music festivals in a blue tank. Meanwhile, his recently released third solo album Hotel Shampoo derives its name from the hotel-shaped art piece he created using samples he gathered from years of touring the world. But musically and lyrically, Shampoo’s ’60s- and ’70s-derived pop is more wistful than whimsical—and that’s more than fine. Sure, some cuts use toy keyboard blips and there’s a loungey duet called “Space Dust #2,” but the finest material employs piano, sweet vocals, friendly brass, strings, and lilting melodies. “Honey All Over” recalls Ray Davies at his gentlest, and “Christopher Columbus” invokes late-period Madness with its Anglo-pop melody and subtle, ska-inspired horns. Tonight, Rhys may offer goofy, funny tales between songs, but expect the real highlights to be from his clever arrangements and tuneful choruses.
Gruff Rhys plays with Y Niwl at Red Palace, 1212 H St. NE. $12 in advance, $14 day of.