Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Snow Patrol Frontman Gary Lightbody Tries Solo

Gary LightbodySome fans were pretty excited when they first learned Gary Lightbody, frontman for Snow Patrol, had a solo project in the works. While A Hundred Million Suns was solid with Crack the Shutters and Take Back The City, Lightbody's sound was less self-assured than previous alternative pop recordings. Maybe it was time for a change, some said.

On some tracks, the change is bigger than expected. Originally, Lightbody intended to produce a country album, but then fell into creating a hodgepodge alternate easy listening rock country fusion with the collaboration of REM and Belle & Sebastian veterans.

He said it sounded lovely. Oh no.

The result was a supergroup, Tired Pony, including Richard Colburn (drums), Iain Archer (songwriter), Miriam Kaufmann (Archer's wife), Jacknife Lee (producer), Peter Buck (guitar), Scott McCaughey (bass), and Troy Stewart. Guests included M Ward, Zooey Deschanel, and Tom Smith. And on the tracks that nail the original intent of the project, Lightbody has never sounded better.

A Rougher Sound Adds Depth To Lightbody's Vocals.

The first four tracks do the best job capturing a different side of Lightbody, with a sound that's deeper and decidedly more rugged. These two standouts are Northwestern Skies and Get On The Road (with Deschanel). Point Me At Lost Islands, Dead American Writers, and The Silver Necklace also do a fine job making something original. Hear it for yourself from this amazing clip (Lisa Hannigan rocks Zooey Deschanel's part!) The studio cut is even richer).

It's the balance of the album that doesn't pay off. At the fifth track, the album takes the same turn Snow Patrol has taken over the last few years, leaning more toward an easy listening, singer-songwriter genre. And while that is fine, it doesn't capitalize on the talented lineup or the original uncertain allure of Lightbody.

So, that leaves half an album of original material and half that reminds me of less-emotive, over-polished Snow Patrol ballads. Some people might like that. I prefer the Tired Pony experiment, which includes the five named above. What happened to the rest, besides running out of steam during a week-long recording session in Portland?

"As for the original country music direction intended well, it’s not exactly gone that way but you don’t know what’s gonna happen until you all sit down and play together and the first time that only happened 5 days ago," Lightbody wrote. "Country tinged let’s say. Americana maybe."

Snow Patrol super slow ballads, more likely. As the alternative country rock vibe ran its course, the band reached for something comfortable. The problem is that Lightbody sounds his best when he is not so comfortable.

Half A Tired Pony Album Lifts The Place We Ran From To 2.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

There is no mistaking the solidness of Northwest Skies and the duet Get On The Road, but it's not enough to make this album soar like some anticipated. Something moves here and there, but Tired Pony never establishes its real sound. With the better half proving Lightbody has more depth than some people expected, I had to cover it. Stick with the winners mentioned.

The Place We Ran From by Tired Pony is available on iTunes. On Amazon, The Place We Ran From remains unrated.
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