Wiard, the amazingly talented twenty-something local pop songwriter and musician, may not be quite at the genius stage yet, but he's surely driving a fast sports car down the musical road toward it.
If your point of reference is a few decades in the past, you'll recognize hints of Lennon and Brian Wilson and Alex Chilton in his voice and in his style. Short, cleverly structured pop classics are his cup of tea, with enough layered quirkiness to keep you surprised. There is a bit of Elvis Costello and Wilco or Apples in Stereo floating around too, so everything he writes is a mix of old and new, or a slightly off-center conjunction of strangeness and familiarity.
On his latest recording, Painting a Burning Building, Wiard aims high and tries to beat Brian Wilson at the Smiley Smile / Pet Sounds game. Layers of guitars, voices, and keyboards fill up dozens of tracks, with lots of string parts adding to the fun. While his voice is a bit melodically flat and tense, his lyrics are clever and simple, focusing on the horror stories of loneliness and heartbreak. The record raises the stakes, because it's an attempt to make a classic rock record. And Wiard pulls it off really well.