Tom Freund/The Year I Spent In Space/Surf Road Records
Four out of Five Stars
Tom Freund has built his career on records that describe the frailty of human emotion. It’s hardly a surprise then that his latest, The Year I Spent In Space, should describe the difficulties of dealing with the distance and difficulties of the pandemic when he and practically everyone else was confined to isolated corners of their own psyches and environs. It made for a certain cerebral circumstance, one that continues to confound the world well after covid subsided.
Consequently, this is a set of songs that are both mellow and mindful, flush with shared sentiment as gleaned from a decidedly personal perspective. The album’s sole cover, a take on Graham Parker’s idolized glimpse of a nation that no longer lives up to its promise, provides a suitable metaphor for the disappointment that these unforeseen circumstances thrust on a populace that was unprepared for the divide that was yet to come.
Other songs dwell in more introspective worry and observation. The contemplative title track offers an ideal example. I’m alone like the boy in the bubble, Freund insists. This world is in so much trouble. Still, these are songs that speak to resolve and redemption, not necessarily despair. As its title implies, “Don’t Wait (Back Home)” sounds amiable and unhurried, a hopeful glance at the hope that lies just beyond the horizon. Don’t wait for the dream to be over, Freund urges his listeners. The easy amble offered in “Crow’s Landing” suggests that fortuitous fortunes aren’t out of reach. You’re just hiding in the sun, you ain’t disappeared, the singer suggests.
That then provides the album with its innate appeal, given a sound and sway that emphasizes musings rather than melancholia. The songs move at a gentle pace, most with a steady stride. Its appeal is evident in both sound and sentiment, making songs such as “Things I Said” and “Fallen Angel” all but irresistible even on first listen. So too, the winsome and reflective “Happy One” is as giddy as the name suggests, the gentle strum of the ukulele providing both sound and substance.
To his credit, Tom Freund has found a way to translate his emotions into a musical mantra that ably reflects the conflicts and confusion of the current era, doing so by opting for promise over pessimism.
In that regard, it’s clear that isolation aside, the year he spent in space was in fact time well spent.
Tom Freund by Natalie Ford / Planetary Group