It has gotten to the point where I seriously doubt Greg Laswell is capable of putting out a bad album. Landline, his fifth full length, continues his run of perfect, melodic pop/rock. This time, in addition to his usual blend of gorgeous ballads and hummable, catchy tunes, he’s enlisted the help of a number of indie female favorites to add vocals to another collection of songs you’re sure to hear on one of your favorite television programs at some point.
For reasons I can’t explain, and I am done trying to figure out what they could be, Laswell does not get commercial radio play, which leaves a top-notch singer/songwriter like him to pursue other avenues to bring exposure to his music. Enter television dramas. “Grey’s Anatomy” alone has used at least eight of Laswell’s tunes, while others have appeared in programs ranging from “True Blood” to “NCIS” and “CSI:Miami”. His take on Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, stripping it down to a sad ballad, was clearly the inspiration for the version used on the smash hit show “Glee”, a move that pissed Laswell off when no acknowledgement was made of where they took their note for note version from.
There are plenty of candidates on Landline to wind up on a network show in 2012 starting with album opener and first single “Come Back Down”, a duet with Sara Bareilles. With hand claps and a bouncing piano line, the two share a plea for someone to pick themselves up with Bareilles lovingly singing “all of your wallowing is unbecoming” before they both chime in during the chorus, “it’s getting pathetic”. The whole thing comes across as tough love, with a wink and a nod and a melody you can’t escape.
For those worried Laswell’s recent marriage to indie pop darling Ingrid Michaelson, who duets on the lovely acoustic title track that closes the album, would soften some of his signature sarcasm, wit and penchant for a great break-up song, look no further than “Another Life To Lose”, the absolute highlight here and one of my favorite tracks of 2012 to date. Upon a bed of glorious piano arpeggio’s, Laswell issues a dismissal for the ages in his distinctive, rich baritone. “And I have places for things again, from now on I’ll hold more in. Turns out that I don’t owe you shit, it was never my intention to cause you harm or to make you sore and I don’t know what the final score is,” he sings, cleansing himself of a failed relationship.
His new found happiness does come to the forefront often enough, especially in the declarations of love on piano ballads “Back To You”, a duet with Elizabeth Ziman, and “New Year’s Eves”. “Dragging You Around” featuring Sia may just be the most upbeat track Laswell has ever recorded. It all adds up to one of my favorite releases in the pop singer/songwriter genre this year. Greg Laswell has yet to disappoint and here’s to hoping Landline reaches a wide audience.
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