[GIVE THE SIDEMAN SOME] The latest solo effort by Mike Coykendall is probably going to be the one that finally gets this erstwhile backup musician some long overdue attention. Unfortunately, that notice will probably come as a result of the marquee names that contributed to the album, including both members of She & Him, M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel; Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard; and Eric Earley of Blitzen Trapper. But once the rubberneckers get past the obvious hooks, chances are they'll tap right into Coykendall's playful and sincere take on the last 50 years of pop-music history.
Because goodness knows it is hard not to be charmed by Chasing Away the Dots. The album has a comfortable, lived-in feel, the perfect match for Coykendall's unburnished vocals. Ambling cuts like "Mumbo Jumbo" and lead single "The Hippie Girl" (featuring sweet background singing by Deschanel) sound like they were tossed together in an hour fueled by a couple of beers and a joint. Quieter moments—"Mr. Fly" and the spectacular album closer "They're Gone"—feel closer to musings captured in the wee hours, committed to tape before inspiration wanes.
The most surprising element of Chasing is how well it flows considering Coykendall recorded a double-album's worth of material and had to pare it down (if you buy a vinyl copy, you'll get the additional 11 tracks in a digital download). While it will be interesting to hear how it would come across in an expanded form, the album as it stands is a tidy little diamond in the rough, ripe for discovery by the world at large.
SEE IT: Mike Coykendall plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., on Saturday, Sept. 15. 9 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.