That newly awed sense of the world has served Feldman, 38, well. His debut album, Living It All Wrong (Pure/Mercury), is full of carefully observed tales of lives messed up by circumstance and changed by love, each told with a balance of dry wit and cut-to-the-quick honesty. Its characters are those you'd encounter on the street: A man pondering reincarnation, a woman who believes her lover is misguided, a dreamer talking about life on the moon.
Feldman, who studied classical and jazz piano and holds a degree in composition from Indiana University, believes slow-walking helped his music, particularly his lyric writing. ``Words can't be too specific. You want them to have resonance and define a feeling beyond the words. To sort of say something flatly doesn't work. I'm trying to capture something so that, in a way, it isn't captured; it's still alive. There has to be ambiguities in it.''
With his mix of detailed observation and humor, Feldman has been compared to Randy Newman and Loudon Wainwright 3d. But his musical sense is different: Living It All Wrong moves from stride-style piano to sweeping, Gershwin-esque string passages to mournful solo clarinets, from romantic accordion-tinged love songs (``We Now Have Time'') to lilting exercises in pure pop like ``Living It All Wrong.'' Some of his songs are cautionary tales, like the reincarnation-minded ``Always Til Always,'' which advises ``You'd better have fun, cause it's all over soon.''
``I love Randy Newman, but our roots are different,'' said Feldman, who will lead a trio at the Tin Angel. ``One thing I do connect with him about is . . . this thing about cathartic honesty. He'll say things nobody else would say. I respond to that. I feel a kinship in that way.''
Feldman harbors few dreams of pop stardom. His goal, he says, has always been to make intelligent music. ``I started writing songs out of a personal need, the way most things start. I always thought that there must be a lot of people out there who aren't buying pop records but would be interested in something that made them sit up and think. And so far, that's true. The people that come to the shows have really been great, smart, wonderful people.''
Lee Feldman at the Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St., at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Tickets: $7. Phone: 215-928-0978.
PAT DINIZIO For his first solo venture Pat DiNizio hasn't strayed far from his superb work with the Smithereens. Except for some minor-key moodiness at the start and finish and some jazzy horns here and there, Songs and Sounds (Velvel) wraps DiNizio's typically doleful songs in the kind of hard-edged but melodic guitar that the Smithereens consistently deliver. (The band will reunite when DiNizio finishes his tour; after many years on Capitol, the quartet has signed with Velvel). At the North Star on Tuesday the singer-guitarist will be joined by bassist J.J. Burnel and drummer Tony ``Thunder'' Smith, both of whom played on the album.
- Nick Cristiano
Pat DiNizio Trio, with Bill Zell, at the North Star Bar, 27th and Poplar Streets, at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets: $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Phone: 215-235-7827.
MARCY PLAYGROUND Marcy Playground nearly became an industry casualty last summer when EMI Records closed up shop shortly after releasing the New York (by way of Minneapolis) trio's eponymous debut. But fortunately for the band, which plays a sold-out show Saturday at the Pontiac, Capitol Records chanced a rescue - and, fortunately for both, ``Sex and Candy'' now tops Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks and the album seems Top 40-bound. The post-grunge, acoustic guitar-based alt-rockers play sparely languid, forced-rhyme ruminations that sometimes verge on lyrical coherency. In ``Ancient Wall of Flowers,'' for example, front man John Wozniak - who seems capable of writing a truly good song someday - asks, ``But I never heard you callin' from the sun/Did you ever care to shoot your silver gun.'' Bland, competent, and largely inoffensive, Marcy Playground is a rock and roll baked potato, badly in need of proper seasoning.
- Fred Beckley
Marcy Playground, with Lincoln, at the Pontiac Grille, 304 South St., at 6 p.m. Saturday. Sold out. Phone: 215-925-4053.
AND THEN THERE'S . . . Singer-songwriter John Flynn headlines the Tin Angel tonight. . . . New York swingers Nick Palumbo & the Flipped Fedoras entertain at the Five Spot on Saturday. . . . Tanya Savory and Small Potatoes serve up a folk repast at the Cherry Tree on Sunday. . . . New Age Greek god and noted public TV fund-raiser Yanni has sold out the CoreStates Center on Tuesday. . . . The Psyclone Rangers and 440's rock out at the Troc Balcony on Thursday. . . . The Grifters' Dave Shouse leads indie-rock supergroup Those Bastard Souls into Nick's on Thursday with Rex and Franklin.
- Dan DeLuca
For details, see the listings.