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April 23, 2007 | by  | in Music |
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Grant-lee Phillips – Strangelet

With three hours to kill and a hangover in desperate need of soothing, Grant-lee Phillips latest release Strangelet proved to be the perfect accompaniment to my Cook Strait ferry crossing.

Grant-lee Phillips’ fifth solo release is gentle, pensive, engaging, and musically diverse. Packed full of big ideas, it was a great distraction to the bumpy swells and my throbbing head. He has been around for quite some time in various bands and guises. Outside his singer-songwriter work, he has composed for film/TV, is a visual artist, played the town troubadour on Gilmour Girls and has even dabbled in the art of magic.

His strength, however, definitely lies in his beautifully arranged folk.

A multi instrumentalist, Phillips wrote, arranged and produced all the material on the album, as well as being responsible for vocals, guitar, bass, baritone ukulele and all keys “black and white”. He is accompanied by the Section Quartet, bringing in strings, French horn and an eight-string ukulele.

With this much instrumentation it would be easy to get too full on, but Phillips seems to effortlessly hit the mark, perfectly arranging all instrumentation to complement his richly toned voice.

Strangelet’s diversity is most clear when going from the gentle plucking of the ukulele on ‘Fountain of Youth’ which complements his dreamy, breathy vocals, to the urgency in the Jeff Buckley inspired ‘Chain Lightning’ – where violins create a rhythmic depth and the drawn out electric guitar solo shows his strength as an arranger.

Alt-country styled, subtly Neil Young sounding ‘Hidden Hand’ bounced along with the swells, and the claustrophobic themed ‘Soft Asylum (No Way Out)’ is a straight rock orientated emotive track-fitting as there was ‘no way out’ of my hangover or the wretched boat I was stuck on. However, Phillips’ twelve-track well crafted Strangelet proved to be light relief. Highly recommended.

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