Last year, Santa Cruz singer-guitarist Sasha Dobson made a strong—if underappreciated—recording debut with The Darkling Thrush, an impressively variegated collection of standards. Since then, Dobson has, both physically and musically, been on the move. She has relocated to New York City, switched labels and headed back into the studio for the radically different Modern Romance. Comprised almost entirely of originals (her slyly playful cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ title track one of only two exceptions), variously co-written by Dobson and her co-guitarists (and producers) Jesse Harris and Richard Julien, this sophomore outing proves, first and foremost, that you can take the girl out of California but you can’t take California out of the girl.
As warm and welcoming as a leisurely drive along the Pacific Coast Highway (even Ellington’s inky “Mood Indigo” sounds like it’s dressed for summer), these paeans to youth, love, hope, freedom and similarly sunny themes suggest the laidback harmony of Wilson Philips underscored by both the folk-jazz smarts of Norah Jones and retro sass of Quebec’s Susie Arioli. As for the writing, picture Roger Miller crossed with John Sebastian and Joni Mitchell and you get the diversely imaginative idea.