If you’ve been missing local indie-rockers The If You Wannas, consider getting friendly with Pool — the latest solo project from The If’s guitarist Ryan Barrington Cox. The album (released last November) is comfortable in both its weirdness and its hooky popness. Which is also what made The If You Wannas such a fun band — the way you could not really get what they were doing, and still be totally connected to it. Here, Cox blends quirky samples and unusual instrumentation with rhythmic jangle.
Lead track “Watch Pot” is at once cozy and nostalgic, though reminiscent of what, it’s hard to say. Cox plays most of the parts himself, from a grungy electric guitar to a ringing xylophone. His wife, Emily Keebler (Shod My Feet, Lassos) sings back up.
Keebler has a lot of range, both vocally and in terms of the characters she seems to inject into her singing. It’s a high-low mix of serious and tongue-in-cheek that serves Pool well. Cox, on the other hand, tends to sing in one voice — a smooth tenor that goes exactly where it needs to. His straightforward delivery on the roiling and staccato “Get Free(er)” keeps the song from venturing too far into fringey experimentation.
“Eyelid Flowers” is a standout track, full of heartwarming chords, rhumba beats and sweet harmonies. Its alt-alt-country tenderness recalls a more polished Claire and Bain’s Maple Yum Yum. In fact, it’s possible that Cox and Keebler (and their resulting duo, Lassos) is the happy ever after that Claire and Bain didn’t find in their collaboration.
“Boy With Red Balloon” is another slow dance. The minute-long track is a box waltz that makes its slow-quick-quick way through languid percussion, heart-beat thump and eerie, metallic string tones.
The album ends with the driving “Take It Back,” which matches jogging indie-rock with crackling drums and a stumbling, sometimes atonal melody that adds a layer of interest to the song. What Cox does best is pair strong lyric writing with off-kilter sounds so that everything feels almost catchy and nothing is ever exactly what it seems. The best example is “Riverside Dr,” a folk-rocker with bluesy inclinations. The guitar snarls, the percussion is an array of offhandedly cool clunks and pops, and the lyrics meander through Asheville landmarks and twitchy mental states.
Also great: Cox manages to put out an album every year or so, and this song collection contains the kind of material that continues to reveal new meanings and sounds with each listen. He’ll play at French Broad Brewery on Friday, Jan. 24. “Should be a fun show (my first in nearly a year, wow!) with lots of new songs and some other musicians involved too,” Cox said in an email. 6-8 p.m., all ages, free.