Summer at Shatter Creek

Summer at Shatter Creek (Absolutely Kosher)

Summer at Shatter Creek is the ultimate solo album. Not only has Craig Gurwich played every instrument and written and recorded every song on his debut, but the tunes themselves feel as if they were composed in a room far removed from human traffic. You can practically smell the stale sweat socks.

That's not to suggest that this CD stinks. Rather, Gurwich -- a Kalamazoo, Michigan, native who lives in LA -- has crafted a monument to monastic seclusion, an ethereal collection that seems to float from the speakers. He accomplishes this effect partially by way of his voice, a hushed, multitracked falsetto that reaches such high notes you expect Gurwich to be wearing wings. (Sigur Rós and Jeff Buckley may use similar tactics, but Gurwich scores points for singing in a real language and for not being dead.) To further foster this spooky, insular vibe, Gurwich constructs a warm bed of piano, vibes, tambourine, vintage keyboards and slow, elegant guitar.

Naturally, any solo album worth its salt needs sad lyrics, and Summer at Shatter Creek delivers. "When you've got no one, there's no one to lose," Gurwich whispers during "Driving Through Texas." But instead of coming off as horribly depressed, he wears his isolation as if it were a fur coat -- thick, fuzzy and worth strutting around in. Whether he's cruising empty city streets or telling himself he doesn't miss his ex, Gurwich raises his solitude to the level of outright beauty. After all, as he sings on "Home for the Holidays," "Everybody loves you when you're down."