Ken Stringfellow Soft Commands

On this third solo album in a decade, amid his other appearances with REM, Big Star and the Posies, Ken Stringfellow takes his music in dozens of different directions. Always expanding on his core style as a pop craftsman, Soft Commands fuses new-age music with the flavours of folk, reggae and country. These experimental tracks use synthesised transitions to blend keys, horns and strings with his supple and steady voice. His lyrics confess to all the things he’s figured out over the years, a sure sign of a maturing artist. Chock full of harmonies, the track "You Become the Dawn" connects reggae and ska-inflected verses with trombone and alto sax, whereas the following song "When U Find Someone," escalates from a modest rhyme to an expansive chorus, mingling autoharp and percussion. The album closes with a primarily piano track "Death of a City," with vocal layering that crescendos into a massive choir. Soft Commands reinforces this veteran player’s diverse abilities, and shows he is more than the sum of the other artists he has worked with. (Yep Roc)