Joshua Radin: The Rock & The Tide

Joshua Radin
The Rock & The Tide
Mom + Pop Records
Rating: ★★★½☆

Joshua Radin has a soft voice. That’s not to say he can’t sing loud in terms of volume; rather, it’s that his voice could easily belong to a balladeer on adult contemporary radio. It’s the type of voice that gets a guy called pretty instead of handsome.

On Radin’s new album, The Rock & The Tide, he seems determined to attack that notion. There’s the synth-groove of “Here We Go,” which could have come from the long-lost songbook of A Flock of Seagulls. “You’re Not As Young” is an fun alt-country rocker, complete with mentions of a ring of fire and the great Ryan Adams-esque line of “You’re not as young as you once were/Damn, you look tired.” You’ll even find a strange punk beat-and-bassline on “The Ones With The Light,” which feels somewhat unnatural when paired with Radin’s vocals. There an attempted anthem somewhere in there—“And we will never change/The way we are here”—but it just doesn’t quite hit right.

Most impressive of the instrumental performances on the album is on the opening track, “Road to Ride On.” Here, amidst the tick-tocking muted guitar, Radin manages to better balance his vocal sound with noise behind it. A deep humming background vocal brings to mind a Southern church’s choir. Pounding piano chords emphasize the lyrical phrase, “You say/Someday/We’ll know/Where to go but we don’t know.” Spiraling strings enter midway and the song suddenly becomes this strange disco-revival mix that somehow still works.

But what really makes the album a success is the handful of low-tempo songs that showcase Radin’s talents, most notably “One Leap.” The naked production—just Radin and an acoustic guitar—gives him the quiet he needs for his voice to shine when delivering lines like “I know your hopes long forgotten/And it’s too much to say/I need you this way.”

The title track “The Rock & The Tide” pairs its nature imagery—“See a mountain/See an ocean/See the years that bring rock and tide”—with a fittingly bare-bones production style. As Radin sings over a fluttering acoustic guitar riff and shuffling brushed drums, it serves as a reminder that if suddenly transported to early 20th century, there’s no doubt Radin could still make a living for himself as musician. And in this age of Auto-Tune, that’s saying something. With a voice that pure, there’s no need for anything digital at all.