- Winter Pays For Summer
by Eric Bodrero
Five Star: A look at albums
that are so good that they impress even the most cynical of critics. Very
few albums are superior enough to obtain a five star rating but occasionally
a band slips through the river of mediocrity that is the modern music industry
and they produce an album that restores our faith in the future of rock!
This series is a look at such albums.
Glen Phillips has been making music for
over twenty years now, and I dare say he’s finally writing the most thought-provoking
and inspirational music he’s ever written in the form of his third solo
record, Winter Pays For Summer.
The long time front man of Toad The Wet
Sprocket, Glen feels more at home now than he ever has, singing with his
heart’s voice and belting it out from the bottom of it with the familiarity
that all Toad fans have come to recognize. That’s not to say that he doesn’t
stretch out and try different things, he does. But he does them so well
that you won’t even notice unless you’re in the same “zone” as he.
Which won’t be often, because Glen has
reached a zone that none of us even knew existed. His vocals are as strong
as ever, singing hushed, quiet ballads on one track, and then crooning
at the top of his lungs in another in a boyish, unpretentious harmony.
His songwriting is spotless and less cynical than usual, bringing thoughts
of ocean sunsets and walking down a tulip-strewn prairie road as a child
with your dad to an abrupt about-face, and you can almost envision Glen
sitting in the middle of some oak tree-filled forest and franticly chicken-scratching
lyrics down on an old college-lined notebook, and the angelic beings who
are spewing it at him.
Glen takes a more straightforward approach
at the songwriting, singing about things such as going through difficult
times, being thankful for what you have, and being yourself, and does it
in a way that makes him incredibly human. The tracks in Winter have a way
of making you feel warm and contempt with who you are and comfortable with
the mistakes you make, which is extremely welcome these days, and is a
sound for sore ears. You may even find yourself depressed in a few spots,
but the feeling never lingers too long, and it’s always a “happy” sad,
never a “miserable” sad.
The songwriting isn’t the only thing at
peak form here. The album serves as an all-star lineup of guest vocalists
and musicians, including such vocal talent as Ben Folds, Kristin Mooney,
and Andy Sturmer (of Jellyfish). Other contributors include guitarists
Michael Chavez (of John Mayer), Greg Suran (of Goo Goo Dolls), and Jon
Brion (of Rufus Wainwright, Fiona Apple, and Aimee Mann). Drummer Pete
Thomas (of Elvis Costello and Los Lobos) lends his drumsticks and gives
a bang or two as well.
It goes without saying that all that talent
adds up to some seriously tight instrumentals, and there is nary a wasted
guitar lick or a cymbal smash to be heard throughout the entire record.
The pacing of the album is impeccable, showcasing a brilliant blend of
rocking anthems and heart-wrenching folk ballads that only Glen can master
so well (okay, and a little help from producer John Fields, known for working
with Andrew W.K. and Switchfoot). Fans of Toad The Wet Sprocket’s Dulcinea
and In Light Syrup should find plenty to love here.
After the disk was done playing the first
time I suddenly found myself yanked out of my happy place and irritated
because of it, fumbling towards the play button to start it all over again,
never minding the resentment I felt toward the CD player for rudely bringing
my melancholic lament to a quiet halt and wondering how it all came to
an end so quickly in the first place. Regardless, Winter Pays For Summer
is a gem of a record, and should not be missed.
- Winter Pays For Summer
Duck And Cover
Don't Need Anything
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