In the digital era, singer-songwriter has become an increasingly hermetic calling. Holed up in a bedroom with a computer, Pro Tools software, and visions of Brian Wilson it’s possible to record a professional-sounding album without ever leaving the house. At the Knitting Factory Wednesday night, the bluff, charming singer Colin MacIntyre, who goes by the name of Mull Historical Society, was as at home onstage as he is at the mixing board.
Accompanying himself on guitar, with a keyboard player (who acted more like a mate down the pub than a backing musician) adding dramatic flourishes and rhythmic detail, McIntyre writes slightly askew pop in the tradition of Todd Rundgren, the aforementioned Wilson and Elvis Costello. Avoiding the whining that characterizes many of his contemporaries, MacIntyre finds sharp and unexpected metaphors for the usual themes of heartbreak and anomie in the modern world: “The Supermarket Strikes Back,” from “Us” (XL/Beggar’s Group) imbues frozen vegetables with romantic frustration; the urgent “Am I Wrong” could be a 1950s teen ballad, but the ambiguous lyrics mark it as completely modern.