Published Jan 20, 2016The fourth solo album from Shuyler Jansen (Old Reliable) begins impressively with "Idle City," a song with a strong dynamic arc that makes effective use of backing vocals. The following cut, "Old Machine," is richly textured and atmospheric modern rock, with the twang in the guitar the only rootsy touch, while pedal steel accentuates the quieter and moodier third track, "We Should Just Fall Apart."
The rest of the album continues this somewhat uneasy juxtaposition of styles and production sounds. Individually, the songs are of high quality ("Sharpest Diamond" is a psych-inflected gem, "Mercury" is a sparse and tender treat of a ballad), but they just don't sit that snugly alongside each other here. Jansen has always had eclectic tastes, as shown by his roots-meets-electronica 2004 solo debut, Hobotron, an album he followed up with the more orthodox and convincing Today's Remains.
Here, he and producer David Carswell (The New Pornographers) recruit such top-notch players and harmony singers as Paul Rigby (Neko Case), Ryan Boldt and Clayton Linthicum of Deep Dark Woods and Kacy Lee Anderson (Kacy and Clayton), and they do fine work. The key instrument is Jansen's gorgeously rich and emotionally expressive voice, but it's one that would be better served by a less is more production approach. (Big White Cloud)