Bob Wiseman Themes and Variations

There’s nothing quite like the broken folk pop of Bob Wiseman and on his latest record his intimately honest lyrics are as bold as his infectious melodies. Wiseman can break hearts as easily as he can get feet tapping, and his most lush arrangements here sound sparse beneath his pretty, raw voice. On "Who am I?,” he sounds as wistful as old friend Ron Sexsmith, yet he subverts a similar mood for the captivating story of "Misery.” Something comparable occurs during the moody "Search the World,” whose seedy double entendres give away to a wonderfully sunny chorus. "Dead Inside” would be truly wrenching if Wiseman’s words weren’t so playful and the same can be said about the old folk of "The Henry Moore Room.” The sharpest moment on this record occurs during an untitled track, which consists of a lo-fi Daniel Johnston-esque love song sandwiched between a skit about a heartless songwriter. The episode is in keeping with Wiseman’s penchant for directing amusing barbs at the music industry. Though he may be an outsider, Bob Wiseman is truly open and inviting on Themes and Variations. (Blocks)