The "inbetweener" EP is a rare and wonderful thing
in the hands of a skilled craftsman. It's a true chance to try
some new things, both songwriting wise and sonically, a good time
to step out on a limb and do something truly artistic - and when
self-released, without the constraints placed on the artist by
a record label or any contractual constraint, it can be even better.
Glen Phillips takes the chance to do some things that have
obviously been brewing inside of his soul for a few years on his
newest release, Secrets Of The New Explorers. Phillips
eschews almost all hints of his previous works, both as a member
of Toad The Wet Sprocket and his solo works up to this
point that have been a bit more straight-forward pop affairs.
The songs on Secrets
stay fairly low-key, both in
tone and tempo, never straying much from their rather meditative
sound, with one or two moments of exception. "They'll Find
Me" is immediately likeable and eerily reminiscent of the
more relaxed works of Paul Simon. The song has an effortless
feel about it that is transcendent and beautiful, with a groove
that floats lithely along. "Space Elevator" is a bluesy
number that sounds uncannily like a 77's song from the
early '90s mixed with the soulful funk of Lenny Kravitz's
second record. It is a great song, having the only pronounced
drums on the EP, and grooves right along to its well-produced
reverby vocals and reversed accents
funky! Glen stretches
sonically again on "The Spirit Of Shackleton", underscoring
his soft vocals and keyboard pads with a nice trashy drum loop
that moves into trip-hop territory. Glen gives a nod to the songs
of Paul Simon in his lyric for "Shackleton" as well,
as he uses the track to explore some hidden references to Bowie's
"Major Tom." Secrets
is teeming with references
to a destroyed Earth where people are seeking a new place to live,
a new planet to destroy, but all in the hope of renewal and restarting.
It is a brilliant piece of music, only reaching about 20 minutes
total playing time, that covers a lot of musical ground and raises
many questions relevant to today's world
if you'll take
a moment to stop and listen. The songs are beautiful, and the
closing track "A Dream" is sparse loveliness at its
finest, reminding the listener once more why they came to fall
in love with the music of Glen Phillips in the first place.
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