Joseph Arthur The Graduation Ceremony

It might be a little redundant to state that Joseph Arthur makes albums that sound like Joseph Arthur, but his moody, atmospheric brand of songwriting has always been relatively easy to spot, even when he's trying to broaden his range with his Lonely Astronauts. Yet there is no such attempt on The Graduation Ceremony, his first truly solo album in five years ― this is very much classic Joseph Arthur. The songs are stripped right down to acoustic guitar and piano, for the most part, and therein lies part of the problem: they begin to blend together into one extremely earnest song that goes on for a long time. Admittedly it's a rather lovely song, but it creates an album low on personality, and his solemn lyrics don't do anything to help. This is another perfectly adequate album from Joseph Arthur. More notably, it is the best record that Liz Phair has been involved with for years, thanks to her backing vocal contributions. (Indica)