Published Jan 05, 2015Onward and Sideways is Joshua Radin's sixth long-player in under a decade. The whispery-voiced singer-songwriter has been productive since his 2006 debut, We Were Here, and his latest record might be his richest collection of songs to date.
The Cleveland-born musician enjoyed early success when one of the first songs he wrote found its way onto TV. It led to a record deal, tons of media attention and more of his songs ending up in film and television, to the chagrin of some critics, but Radin's brand of folk has never been of the "Times They Are A-Changin'" variety. His is the gentler, falling in-and-out of love sort, rooted somewhere between the sometimes sunny, sometimes sad '60s pop and the mid-'70s sensitive pop traditions. It pairs perfectly with introspective onscreen montages.
The 13 tracks here chart Radin's move to Sweden to be with the person he loves. The result is a poignant, personal, feel-good soundtrack to a budding real-life romance, no doubt coming soon to theatres near you.
"You've got everything I need," he sings on "Angels." Thematically, Radin navigates the everyday worries born of a new relationship between old friends and the excitement that goes along with it in songs that could easily sound cliché but don't. He has a special knack for crafting one gorgeous track after another that includes making the familiar feel fresh and new.
Radin's meticulous guitar picking could carry many of the songs here, but he adds piano, percussion and strings to dramatic effect. He keeps good company in the process, this time around enlisting the help of drummer Matt Chamberlain (Elvis Costello, David Bowie), pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz (Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson), keyboardist Patrick Warren (Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris), and producer/guitarist Tony Berg (The Replacements, Lucius). The record also includes a new version of "Beautiful Day," from 2013's Wax Wings, featuring vocals by Sheryl Crow, his former tour mate.
The delicate-voiced crooner could afford to take his time, but clearly has a Ryan Adams-like motivation to work. Radin has mastered the low-key singer-songwriter formula and can be relied upon to stick with what works. And when he's this good at what he does, why wouldn't he? (Wax Records)