We Were Here
Columbia Records, 2006
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/12/2006
There’s a major difference between an understated record and a boring one. Much to my dismay, after giving Joshua Radin’s We Were Here multiple listens, it falls into the latter camp.
My first exposure to Radin was through the NBC sitcom Scrubs. His song “Winter,” which is included on this album, was a brilliant expression of the season itself. That sounds clichéd, but in my eyes Radin encapsulated the dark, melancholy aspect of winter without it coming off as trite. When added to the plot line of the episode, it became even more poignant.
Unsurprisingly, “Winter” is the best track here by far. It says everything Radin wanted to say on the album in one song. Unfortunately, that means there’s the rest of the album to contend with.
The record starts off promisingly enough with Radin utilizing the style of “Winter” to great effect. “Sundrenched World” captures an early Simon & Garfunkel vibe, at times reminding me of “Scarborough Fair.” “Star Mile” features some gorgeous harmonies, the sort of little touches that gave me reason for hope. “These Photographs” is as upbeat as things get (which isn’t much), but it injects enough energy to pique the interest.
This is primarily an acoustic record, with some very beautiful vocals to be had. However, the main problem comes with the repetition of this sound. Really, how often did Radin plan on sounding wispy and distant? By the time he gets around to “What If You” it almost starts to grate on you.
I harp on this point in so many reviews, but it holds up to examination. If you, an aspiring musician, are going to make a record with a sound you find complements you best, make sure it does the same for the audience. By the midway point of We Were Here, I seriously was starting to drift off. It was only the promise of hearing “Winter” again that kept me awake, or at least until that point.
Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m telling these artists how I think their album should sound, which is presumptuous on my part. However, this is just how the album plays out me. Nothing would have pleased me more than to send We Were Here out with an A rating and Jeff’s stamp of approval. The fact of the matter is, though, that this album just isn’t that good. Hopefully, Radin can take his shining achievement, “Winter,” and really build from it.