REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/02/2012
Ever hear of Greg Laswell? Yeah, neither have I, though after listening to Landline I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s either criminally overlooked as a songwriter or I’m just too sheltered in the area of singer-songwriters. Now with his fifth album hitting the streets, the DIY pop rock stalwart admits his music doesn’t stem from heartache so much anymore (being newly married will do that to you), but his creativeness hasn’t slowed down at all. Laswell fleshed out this record in a mere three weeks sequestered in an old church that doubles as his makeshift home studio in Maine.
Though it’s a common avenue to embark on, Laswell has this timeless formula refined into an art form. His piano melodies are executed flawlessly and his introspective wordplay is easy to identify with. His smooth vocal work is complemented by several angelic female voices (Ingrid Michaelson, Sia, Elizabeth Ziman, and Sara Bareilles) so tracks like “Back To You” and “Dragging You Around” add a completely different dimension to already solid songcraft.
It’s nice to see a singer-songwriter of this ilk who isn’t trying to be the next John Mayer. Self-recorded, self-produced, and entirely Laswell’s vision, this album gives the impression right away that this is a guy who just enjoys playing music first and foremost. While the first half of the disc is hook-heavy and moves at a quick pace, the second half is more ballad orientated, closing on “Landline,” a lovely balled with Laswell’s new wife as co-pilot.Though Laswell suffered a bit of writer’s block at the onset of this disc, mostly in part to being – well, not being miserable anymore -- longtime listeners will find this a mostly upbeat affair compared to his past work while still retaining the memorable pop-rock Laswell has always delivered. Fans of underground heroes like Stephen Kellogg, Charlie Mars, or even mainstream stars like Mat Kearney should take note of this release.