By Brian PalmerApril 24, 2012
knows exactly what his audience wants. He has made a career out of combining swelling and brooding piano pop-rock melodies, tales of love and loss, and vocals that mine the depths of mourning and the heights of ecstasy when they aren’t simply flatlining their way through a story. The performances are hypnotic time and time again even if the territory he covers is often familiar, and this is no less true on his latest release. Landline
is loaded with diverse musical moments. First single “Come Back Down” is the sort of epic pop rock that radio loves, and when you add in the fact that Sara Bareilles guests on the track, it’s a recipe for music gold. Laswell’s wife, fellow indie pop-rocker and DIY princess Ingrid Michaelson, guests on the chilling, closing title track which features a Simon & Garfunkel-esque fade out reminiscent of “The Boxer.” “Back to You” and “Dragging You Around” likewise feature guest vocalists (Elizabeth Ziman and Sia, respectively), with the first featuring little more than a somber piano and sparse orchestral flourishes while the latter is more radio-ready pop-rock.
Laswell’s lyrical prowess shines through on “Come Back Down” when he and Bareilles sing their pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootsraps-and-get-on-with-your-life message, and he hits a few more home runs as well as with this couplet from “New Year’s Eves”:
And as for what it takes to make it through another holiday
For the rest of your New Year’s Eves I’m free
may not be the absolute best album in Laswell’s already impressive discography, but it’s pretty damn close. Landline
is an emotionally resonant, musically diverse and vocally superior record that is easily one of 2012’s best.