I’m Coming Home
Finally scheduled for an international release, this is St. Thomas’s second full-length album, following 2000’s Mysterious Walks. He still sounds uncannily like Harvest-era Neil Young, or even Buffalo Springfield, although with an updated, contemporary, lo-fi alt.rock sound that is comparable, perhaps, to freak cowboys Will Oldham and Bill Callahan. And, as followers of those particular artists know, there’s a fine line between clever beauty and laughable naivete.
At its worst, the album is careless and whimsical almost to the point of banality — or parody, even. For example, check out the bluegrass pastiche “A Nice Bottle of Wine” or the tedious Irish folk music imitation “Bookstore.”
However, when St. Thomas succeeds, the results are lovely and poignant reflections on relationships and individuality — often manifested through the stark image of the cowboy — that comes in the shapes of absolutely irresistible melodies — intensely simple yet overwhelmingly desperate. St. Thomas’s dramatic vocal delivery is nothing short of brilliant at its best, combining a blue-eyed country/crooner soul with an intelligently scrutinizing lazily off-key delivery. And the musicians, although at times barely touching their instruments — often going for a whisper where a scream wouldn’t do — are perfect in this setting.
“Goodbye Emily Lang” isn’t only a nostalgic nod to St. Thomas’s previous band, local indie-rock heroes Emily Lang, but also one of the album’s most endearing moments with its Morricone-ish guitar lines and heartfelt sentiments. “Strangers Out of Blue” is almost as timelessly beautiful as its title, while radio single “Cornerman” is a superb campfire sing-a-long, over-familiar in texture yet surprisingly effective.
St. Thomas’s then, has made a far more consistent and satisfying album this time around, combining his easy way around a melody with a willingness to explore the potentials of his own writing, and particularly, his arrangements and performance. With this album under his belt, and an upcoming tour of Europe supporting the mighty Lambchop, things are definitely looking up for this particular cowboy.
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