Friday, December 14, 2012


Joshua Radin.  Underwater.  
Mom & Pop Music, 2012.  Joshua Radin:

While listening to Joshua Radin’s newest album, Underwater, I kept coming back to the same thought again and again: this man has a very consistent sound. Slightly plaintive music, combined with melancholy and introspective lyrics, is a hallmark of Radin’s music, and he hasn’t strayed very far with his newest album. I’d even go so far as to say that Radin’s music is the very definition of the country/folk singer/songwriter mold. However, having such a focused oeuvre can be a proverbial double-edged sword. Consistency works for some – look at McDonald’s – but with musicians, you’ve got to figure that fans will eventually stop buying albums if they are all pretty much the same. 

Regardless, I’m not sick of Radin’s sound. Not yet, anyway. (By the way, it really is his sound. Joshua Radin doesn’t have a set group of musicians with whom he works. For this album, there were people who performed on more than one song, but nobody but Radin performed on every song.) He may not do much that feels new, but what he does, he does well. Like a lot of people, I was first introduced to Radin’s sound through the television series Scrubs. His evocative sound perfectly suited the tastes of the show’s star, Zach Braff – an old friend and former classmate of Radin’s – and the needs of the show’s producers. The Shaker Heights native’s music has been featured in television and movie soundtracks multiple times since. That makes sense to me, since, taken as a whole, Underwater is the perfect album to be background music for workaday activities – soothing and mostly unobtrusive – which works well for soundtracks.

Back to the music, though. Like I said, there’s not a lot new on Underwater. “Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better” evokes exactly the same feeling as Radin’s breakthrough hit, “Winter.” Same with “Here’s Where We Begin,” “Everything,” and “The Willow.”  “Let It Go” has a standard country music chord progression – done very well, mind you. Same goes for “Five and Dime” and “The Greenest Grass.”  Speaking of standard chord progressions, “Lost at Home” fits the folk music mold perfectly, as does “One More.”

There were a few songs that didn’t feel Run-of-the-Radin-mill, though. The song that gave the album its title was a bit unusual – more percussive than what he normally writes, at any rate. Similarly, “Any Day Now” is also a bit different–the synthesizer/electronic piano is more pronounced, has more of a driving rhythm--and isn’t just Radin’s standard 2/4 or 4/4 signature. The one piece that did feel completely new was “Anywhere Your Love Goes”. This song felt soul inspired, and I hope we hear more like this, and more in general, from Joshua Radin.

Personnel:  Joshua Radin (guitar, vocals), with numerous accompanying musicians, including Jim Keltner (drums), Benmont Tench (Hammond organ, piano, Wurlitzer piano), and Priscilla Ahn (background vocals).

Tracks: Tomorrow is Gonna Be Better, Anywhere Your Love Goes, Let it Go, Five and Dime, Here’s Where We Begin, Underwater, Everything, Lost at Home, One More, The Greenest Grass, The Willow, Any Day Now.

Jessica Olin

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