Greg Laswell: Landline
Greg Laswell dabbles in the forlorn and pining. His music is often about love, a love that leaves you at the door exasperated, refuses to answer any of your calls, and makes your romantic acts look insane.
His new album straddles a comfortable line of being an old nostalgic sound and moving forward in a new direction. At times the songs feel like a continuation of his second album, Three Flights From Alto Nido: overwrought, passionate play of simple chord progressions, and liable to help you fall asleep with Laswell’s deep constant vocals.
But Landline isn’t dull. Four out of twelve of the tracks feature excellent guest work from female vocalists (including Ingrid Michaelson who brings her own manic attitude to the composition). The harmonies are exciting and the lyrics meta commentary on Laswell’s work. On the title track, Laswell and Michaelson sing together, “All I ever needed would never be enough for me.” A lyric that suggests to the listener that love is doubtful and finicky, hard to hold on to.
“Nicely Played” is a gem in the middle of the album. It sounds upbeat despite the subdued vocals, and feels inspired by indie rock band Stars of Track and Field; it’s happy mellow.
Laswell is somewhat of a guilty pleasure. His vocals and guitar work are calming, not too loud and not too complicated but still an alt-folk sound worth listening to.
The typical listener wants to be a stereotypical middle aged woman pining at a window, stuck in a loveless marriage, but Laswell avoids that with the approachability of his pain. The pairings with female vocalists are especially effective because of this. They help complement Laswell’s near monotony and masculine voice and provide a playful back and forth between two lovers. While Three Flights was one side of a sad story, Landline gives us enough of a dialogue, mixed in with lilting piano, efficient acoustic guitar, and well crafted harmonies to fill in all the missing pieces.