(from The Entire Combustible World in One Small Room 2006. Buy/download)
Don Dixon has a long history of involvement with great southern rock music. In the 1970s, he was a member of Arrogance, probably the first of North Carolina's should-have-made-it-big bands (and mentioned in just about the first post I ever wrote, though I didn't know much about them back then). Subsequently, he produced R.E.M.'s Murmur with Mitch Easter, and worked on other records in that vein by Chris Stamey and others. He also released a couple of well-regarded pop albums in the 80s and 90s.
Last year, Dixon put out his first new recording in a while, The Entire Combustible World in One Small Room. Each of the songs is a slice of life taking place in a single room -- it's less of a concept album than one with a nice device to ground the songwriting and unify something about the point of view. As Dixon notes, "the the rooms are almost characters in the songs" themselves.
Combustible World is full of smart songwriting, and the great production that you'd expect from someone with Dixon's track record. It strikes me as similar to late-80s/early 90s Elvis Costello -- sharply observed songs and interestingly arranged music that covers a pretty diverse range of styles in the course of the album. "Roommate" is one of the most straight-ahead pop-rock songs on the album, the story of a girl who can't really admit to herself that she's fallen in love with her roommate. "ICU" stands out to me since I'm always a sucker for interesting percussion sounds. The album has plenty of other good stuff, including a cover of Let's Active's "Room With A View".