BY MICHAEL TOLAND
Singer/songwriter Thomas Anderson is prolific enough that he shouldn’t necessarily have to plunder his own archives to release a new album. But then, it’s that very prolificacy that means that none of his self-curated comps are collections of mere scraps.
Analog Summer gathers various four-track recordings (plus a few studio items) from around the turn of the millennium. As per usual with the Oklahoma native, the record presents a set of songs into which a great deal of thought and craft went – particularly the lyrics. Full of literary allusions, musical quotes, historical references, and disarming heart-on-sleeve moments, Anderson’s words can easily convey a surface meaning, but reward repetition by revealing layers you didn’t realize were there at first pass – cf. opening track” My Old Friend Analog,” which moves back and forth between celebratory and spiritual, or the grim yet sardonic “The Wrong Tornado.” Few artists justify printing the lyrics in the liner notes, but Anderson’s musical prose demands it.
Indeed, his wordsmithing brilliance overshadows his melodies, which tend to be solid but unspectacular. The four-track, one-man-band performances lead to a certain lack of color in the arrangements, but the argument could also be made that fancier production tricks could obscure what Anderson is trying to get across. Still, one wonders what “Pepperbox Blues” or “You Should Be With Me” might sound like with full-band backing. Ultimately, though, that’s a minor quibble, as Anderson’s songs display an ambition and dedication rarely found anymore outside of the catalog of dead and dying icons.
DOWNLOAD: “The Wrong Tornado,” “My Old Friend Analog,” “Pepperbox Blues”