Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Joseph Arthur - One In Five

Joseph Arthur often operates beneath the radar both of what is fashionable and what is friendly, but not strictly by choice. In spite of the many accolades afforded to him by critics, including "Number One Album of the Year" in Newsday and Entertainment Weekly's "#1 Record of the Year," (both in 2000), the dark overtones on even his most accessible songs have left him room for very little commercial success. Not even flattery in the form of covers by contemporary artists such as Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Chris Martin (Coldplay) and Peter Gabriel has been enough to get Joe's name mentioned among their own. He seems eternally destined to be "the guy who wrote that 'In The Sun' song."

A glass-half-full kind of fan revels in the idea that this best kept secret remains hidden after all this time and that it's never hard to get a ticket to one of Joe's shows. But in truth, his relative obscurity is a great poverty to fans of modern music, considering that Joseph Arthur has consistently been the finest singer-songwriter in rock for the past ten years or so. He broke his string of clever, quirky solo releases with 2007's "Let's Just Be," an uneven but worthy collection of raw and unfiltered rock tracks recorded with his new band, The Lonely Astronauts, and I can't help but wonder if he himself is starting to tire of his underground status. If nothing else, the disc proved that his singular talent translates well even into a group collective, but that the man is better focused as a solo artist.

Which makes his calendar for 2008 such a tantalizing affair. He has a new ep slated to be released at the rate of one per month from now through June, with a new Lonely Astronauts following in August. Could We Survive is the first of the bunch and hits the shelves and mail-stream today. It boasts Jen Turner (Natalie Merchant, Lonely Astronauts) on guitar, but flagship track "Walk Away" hints at a return to the textured, acoustic vibrancy that worked so well on Redemption's Son.

Crazy Rain is the next ep and it's slated for an April 15th release, so save some of that tax refund, and keep an eye out for a future post where I'll review all four eps together.

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