Glen Phillips- Winter Pays For Summer (Lost Highway)
review by Joe del Tufo

Track Listing

1. Duck and Cover
2. Thankful
3. Courage
4. Released
5. Cleareyed
6. Falling
7. Half Life
8. True
9. Easier
10. Finally Fading
11. Simple
12. Gather
13. Don't Need Anything

You may remember Glen Phillips from his decade as the frontman of the wonderful Toad The Wet Sprocket. You may not realize he has also released two solo discs, not including a live album and a collaboration called Mutual Admiration Society with Nickel Creek. Phillips' debut solo album Abulum arrived sounding very much like one might expect it to sound: a more acoustically-driven, stripped down Toad. The songs were very strong, and in the end it was a innocuous effort, not unlike a good Finn Brothers disc.

Three years later and Phillips is back with the interestingly-titled Winter Pays For Summer. Immediately it differentiates itself from Abulum with superior production, a fuller, more aggressive sound, and a list of guests that would make the CMJ festival proud. Winter Pays For Summer has a cleaner, more immediate feel to it, as evidenced by the opening Duck And Cover. Sounding like a proper band, the rousing track exudes a very thankful, Zen-like lyrical approach, "Friends and lovers, don't you duck and cover, cause everything comes out as it should." Power-pop icons Jon Brion and Jellyfish's Andy Sturmer guest on this track, and truly make it shine. The presence of Sturmer, considered by many as one of the founding fathers of modern alternative pop music (Fountains Of Wayne fans, take note) is notable, as he has been virtually invisible for the last decade, allegedly producing Japanese pop albums. The similarly sunny Thankful follows and also has Sturmer's soaring backing vocals and glass-is-half-full lines like "With so much undone, you still shine like the sun- we've both got a lot to be thankful for." But not all is sunshine in the winter that paid for summer.

On Winter Pays For Summer we find Phillips being more lyrically introspective than he has ever been. and this gives the tracks a gravity that had been missing from his previous work. On the track Courage (aided by both Ben Folds and Kristin Mooney on vocals), Phillips give us depth that one might be surprised by, "Well it could be that I was mistaken, or maybe I deceived myself, But it's hard to understand somebody, who doesn't want to understand himself." This kind of midnight pondering is at the very spine of this disc, and the soul around which the music emanates. It is pretty clear to me that Phillips' experience as a father has had a profound and awakening effect on his songwriting, and some of these tracks border on spiritual in nature. Not your Daddy's Toad.

There is a lot of diversity on Winter Pays For Summer, and the listener can experience the disc as something of an emotional journey. On the twangy True, graced by Semisonic's Dan Wilson on guitar, we are treated to some of the disc's more revealing and confessional lines "You're in and out of my hands, slipping like sand, passing the time, Your love is brutally bold, careless & cold, but it's mine, mine." Wowsers, Glen. Another standout track, Cleareyed, is more intense and in-your-face than we've seen Phillips in the past. The near revelatory track find Phillips spitting out lines like "Blind me with love, make me blind, Cause I've seen too much, too much of this life."

At the end of the fifth listen, I'm still left wishing for some of storytelling pop made Abulum such a memorable listen. Winter Pays For Summer is so much closer to the heart, it becomes more interesting and impressive than entertaining. Personally, I'm thankful that Phillips had the courage to deliver such a private work.

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