Another gem from the talented Toronto jazz-soul outfit, lead by keyboardist/singer/composer Don Breithaupt, the group's fifth. His love of Steely Dan is no secret (mine either) and he continues to move that group's precision-with-swing sound along nicely, with catchy words and melodies, every tune impressive. Smooth but with lots of guts and glory, it hits the exact right mix of clever and skillful.
This set's a little more soulful than the previous Monkey House releases, so in Dan terms, more Gaucho than Aja. Breithaupt shows his writing chops on "I'll Drive, You Chill," a story-song about a woman who owns a pet-friendly pharmacy but steps out on her husband for a wild ride. "When The Mudmen Come" features a survivalist with a panic room who hears and knows what we don't, ready for the inevitable worst-case scenario: "You stand there just smiling, you should be stockpiling." For every line that makes you smile, there's a solo or part that tickles your musical brain as well.
Dan fans will appreciated guest soloists Drew Zingg on guitar, from the '90's era Steely band, and trumpeter Michael Leonhart, another longtime collaborator of Becker and Fagan. Also, there's a sly nod in the lyrics, "So there's money in your pocket, but you can't buy a thrill." The best guest award goes to Manhattan Transfer, who do their trademark thing in "The Jazz Life." But the Monkey House band is topnotch on its own, handling this hybrid sound that's such a joy when done right.