clean-sounding, slightly wistful
Well, this is quite a change from Exes I must say! Mr Stafford's collaboration with his partner Jasmine Wynants has brought forth a more considered stripped-down approach. Out the window with bombast, please welcome a druggy folky sound, not a million miles from that which Espers peddle. Cedar Room is a brooding opening, difficult to work out whether the song is threatening in intent or genuinely celebratory... Not Another Love Song has some great throw away lines which (he sure can write a great couplet; "All the best love songs are bitter/being angry just sounds better" is a case in point.
Now he has someone to bounce ideas off sonically, (and someone to answer him back, mid-song) Jack Stafford's stories of love have more gravitas and sound better rounded; simply put, his brand of confessional music works a hell of a lot better. The Love Drug contains a definite nod in spirit to Lee Hazlewood and Gram Parsons. There's a pleasant, slightly befuddled alt-country feeling to this LP; Hollywood Goodbyes (despite the song's title) is a frank tale of "ordinary people" and showcases the vocal talents of Jasmine whose smooth vocals fit the clean-sounding, slightly wistful song beautifully.
There are the odd tracks where we feel almost intruders (as both singers effectively sing to each other) such as Blind To See, or The Coming Change and the set of tracks dotted throughout the LP beginning Intonatio (effectively mood pieces setting up the following track, albeit pretty mood pieces).
Highlights of the LP are Midnight Show, which opens up beautifully with woozy slideguitars, (at this point I have to credit the producers with a fabulous job in creating a great mood throughout the LP) and tails off in a great softly-softly way (despite the lyrics of drunkenness and paranoia) and I Think I Like You Just the Way You Are which is a long drawn-out confessional. Normally when you get tracks 8 minutes long, you get some form of mini opera. Not here. Sonically everything is restrained, allowing the story to unfold in a rather bashful (if charming) way. There's a strident, thumping end to the song too. Top stuff.
Check out Together too. At the opening bars of the church organ I feared the worst, I must admit, but it is a very, very funny song indeed.
A good listen and worth checking out.
Words: Richard Foster