The Ditchflowers' debut CD, "Carried Away," was featured on NPR and in Performing Songwriter magazine, garnering unanimous worldwide rave reviews. Perhaps Creative Loafing's Eric Snider put it best when he simply dubbed it "exquisite...sweet, timeless pop" (the album, by the way, topped Eric's "Best of 2007" list). Yet Ditchflower Brian Merrill immediately quipped, "I honestly think we can do better." Was this excessive modesty - or an idle boast? Grounded in melody, layered with witty, intelligent lyrics, and iced with the sort of harmonies that send pop fans swooning, topping "Carried Away" seemed not only unlikely but also unnecessary. But with the Ditchflowers' second effort, "Bird's Eye," Merrill's prediction turns out to be true. Not that Merrill and partner Ed Woltil have altered their approach. But the artistic bond that formed between the two on "Carried Away" is stronger, more fully integrated on "Bird's Eye." "In setting out to make 'Bird's Eye,' we had a little history behind us," says Woltil, "and more of a sense of identity and what we wanted to do." The disc is also more of a band effort, benefitting from contributions by guitar wizard Steve Connelly (ex-Roger McGuinn band) and the rhythm section of Stan Arthur (drums) and Michael Hoag (bass) from Merrill's old days of fronting Big Deal recording artists Barely Pink. Add a few star turns by ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer and English folk-pop artist Steve Robinson, and you've got the makings of a sumptuous sonic feast. The songs, then? Smart, funny, tender but tough...and always taking chances. Woltil, the band's chief songwriter, explores the light and dark here. "Bird's Eye" serves up a heady stylistic stew, fourteen tracks of technicolor pop. The blow-by-blow breakdown: 1. Sunshine Lifeline: Loping, uplifting power pop with a slightly Stonesy swagger. 2. You Could Hurt Someone: Dig the way it moves seamlessly from jaunty pop to soulful breakdown, linked by a jagged, Lennon-esque guitar figure. 3. Simple Guy: You're in a grainy black and white video wearing a scarf. It's drizzling lightly. You're in Belgium. This gem is your Costelloesque soundtrack. 4. Rainout: Sweeping, majestic power ballad with artsy leanings. We challenge you not to sing along with the fadeout. English folk-pop artist Steve Robinson adds gorgeous backing vocals. 5. In Bird's Eye: Shades of "Smile" era Beach Boys and something stranger - Supertramp perhaps? Ultimately, though, this track inhabits a magical atmosphere all it's own. 6. If You Can Dream It: This ode to positive thinking is two-and-a-half minutes of lean, mean power pop. 7. In Memory of the Day: Evocative, Bowie-esque noir stylings...compellingly dark. 8. Pictures of You: Crunchy & relentless, yet nimble, exotic & hook-laden. 9. Love, The Conqueror: Special guest ex-Wilco/Uncle Tupelo drummer Ken Coomer powers this stunning tour de force. 10. We Are The Time: Existential angst disguised as three-minute ear candy. 11. I Feel Sorry: Classic, finger-snapping, three-minute retro guitar pop. 12. Tuesday Is Dead: Left turn down a melancholy alley...be careful, you may want to linger. 13. Home: Bouncy, lush pop ode to domestic pleasures. 14. Lost Without You: Sweetly lyrical, ukulele-driven McCartneyesque ballad. "Bird's Eye" is manna from heaven for fans of music with wit, craft and soul. Image-mongers, celebretants and paparazzi-bait need not apply. Brian probably thinks they can do better next time. We can't wait.