After the breakup of Toad the Wet Sprocket in 1998, Glen Phillips continued to pour his energies into songwriting, coming out with two solo albums in the intervening period. His third, Winter Pays For Summer, is by far the best of the lot, displaying catchy hooks, great lyrics, and a versatility that moves from folk rock to pop to alternative with equal ease.
The album is mainly acoustic guitar driven, but complete with backing chords on electric guitar, driving drums, and the occasional piano lick. The music is syncopated and interesting, with enough variation in songwriting to make the music on each new song interesting. But front and center is Phillip's voice, known as one of the top voices in modern songwriting. Phillips moves from the low ranges, to a high quavering tenor that is perfectly suited and just raw enough for a power chorus. Capable of writing powerful hooks, Phillips is also equally adept at the verses, in which he places introspective lyrics that delve beyond simple cliches.
The album opens up with "Duck and Cover," a catchy folk rock song that acts as one big rollicking chorus. This is one of the top songs on the album, and successfully drives throughout without losing energy. On the next song, "Thankful," Phillips harkens back to Toad the Wet Sprocket with his catchy, powerful chorus. Phillips is able to switch between the two styles with ease, coming off convincingly in both. However, not everything on this album concerns catchy hooks or folk rock rambling. The two songs that immediately follow thankful, especially 'Released', display a quiet, minimilist introspectiveness. Although the other tracks are catchy, the inclusion of these tracks make the album much deeper than a simple radio-friendly solo effort.
Phillips successfully moves through these different styles without being too abrubt, and the constancy of his voice and the musical phrasing greatly serves to ease the transitions between these genres. One gets the impression that Phillips is not 'trying' to experiment with new genres, but rather that his style encompasses more than one genre, with certain aspects rising to the top in each successive song.
Although the beginning of the album is strong, the rest of the album has such gems as the pheomenal 'Cleareyed', 'Easier', and perhaps best of all, 'Finally Fading,' which will cement itself perfectly in your head with its combination of verse phrasing, catchy chorus, and syncopated piano driven bridges. In order to prevent the pop sensibilities from getting old, Phillips spins the gem 'Gather', which moves back to folk rock completely, and closes with the melancholy piano-only "Don't Need Anything."
All in all, Glen Phillips manages to deliver a surprisingly strong album that, while embracing many different musical styles, manages to flow as a cohesive whole. If anything, this album is 'solid', if unspectacular. It's the kind of album that you'll listen to as a whole, for many different moods. Although certain songs, such as 'Finally Fading', could concievably be radio-friendly singles, the album works best as a statement of Glen Phillip's versatility and songwriting prowess. Certainly this album will not be a classic, but will most likely be a well loved treasure among many album collections.
Duck and Cover