Glen Phillips/There Is So Much Here/Compass Records
Four out of Five Stars
Glenn Phillips has always set a high bar for himself. It began when he was still a teenager and took part in the founding of the band with which he made his mark, Toad the Wet Sprocket. An exceedingly affable outfit. Toad managed to infiltrate the mainstream courtesy of its radio-ready sound. Other efforts followed, leading to a series of solo albums and frequent side projects, among them, Mutual Admiration Society, Plover and Works Progress Administration, or WPA. The one thing all these efforts had in common was an obvious affection for music with a decidedly melodic approach, an effortlessly engaging sound that continues to distinguish him all these years on.
His current offering, There Is So Much Here, marks his first individual outing in four years, and his only other recent music save his reunion record with Toad, notably-titled Starting Now. It’s similar in style to the music made with that band, save for the fact that the arrangements are somewhat leaner at times, the product of no more than two or three musicians playing per track. Nevertheless, the songs maintain an emphatic embrace, which, without exception, ensures instant appeal. When, on the opening track, ”The Sound of Drinking,” Phillips sings of The sound of drinking water/The turning of the leaves/The movement of the moon/The spaces in between, he creates more than aural imagery while setting up the album’s clear sonic suggestion.
The jubilation and exuberance are mostly sustained throughout. “I Was a Riot,” “Other Birds of Prey,” “Big Changes,” and “Center of the Circle” maintain that energy and enthusiasm, allowing only occasional moments of mellow engagement. Yet, even during the slower sojourns, optimism prevails. “The Sound Of Drinking,” its title aside, is particularly affecting, as are the album’s other prime ballads, “Let In Anarchy,” “The Bluest Eye,” “Brand New Blue,” “Skeleton For School” and the album’s unnamed bonus track.
That then is Phillips’ gift, that is, the ability to create a connection through both mood and melody. Happily then, There Is So Much Here doesn’t overstate its case.
Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images