There is something to the voice and music of Glen Philips that is purely comforting. Both in his work with Toad the Wet Sprocket and his solo work, there’s an ease and simplicity to the melodies Philips writes that softens anxieties, and on his latest album There is So Much Here, the themes of love and gratitude fit perfectly into his soothing compositions.
Even the more blustery rock songs here evoke good feelings. The crispy pop rock opener “Stone Throat” doesn’t stray too far from Toad’s sound (though the wah wah guitar brings a hint of funk into the mix), with its lyrics about a new relationship mining hope from dark times (“It was the longest winter, and then the shortest spring. We need an endless summer. I want to spread my wings”). Even better is “I Was a Riot”, with it’s ska-lite guitars, reggae-toned bass and shimmering keys creating a lush arrangement for the lyrically reflective song.
First single “Big Changes” at first listen travels familiar terrain as Philips’ other work, but on closer listen you can pick out psychedelic flourishes, and a venturing into darker arenas during the bridge’s harmonies. And the guitar solo, while lower in the mix, wouldn’t be out of place on a speed metal song.
There’s a melancholic beauty to the gentle acoustic “The Sound of Drinking”, with its minor key melodies and swirling synths. Inspired by the pandemic, the track sounds like an awakening after a long winter (“There is so much here that I have never seen”). Philips shows a flair for more complex songwriting throughout the album. “The Bluest Eye” is a piano ballad that builds towards orchestral baroque pop in the vein of The Beatles and Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. One could also hear the influence of Philips’ contemporaries like Duncan Sheik on the clean and clear “Brand New Blue”, which highlights Philips’ plush vocals. And even while the album on the whole was written from a hopeful place, there’s still a sadness on display in this track, with lyrics like “Maybe something’s waiting in the maelstrom. Maybe something’s changing. Probably not soon.”
While it would be fair to say there’s a little cheese in the album closer “Call the Moondust”, for the most part of album is a great example of mature songwriting from a veteran in the field. Philips perfectly handles light folk on the philosophical lullaby “Skeleton for School”. Though revealing plaintive musings on depression and suicide, the track avoids saccharine pitfalls. One can even hear notes of Simon & Garfunkel in the layered vocals that close things up. And Philips straight-up rocks on “Other Birds of Prey”, which has one of the best choruses on the album that will appeal to all fans of 90’s rock.
Glen Philips smartly utilizes his solo outings to experiment and broaden his palette, so There is So Much Here is aptly titled. You can hear the singer-songwriter venturing into new sounds, and he clearly spent time on his lyrics, avoiding platitudes and cliches while still expressing himself in relatable ways (“It takes courage to face the day. Can you wait for me to be okay with being okay?”). It’s the kind of album that makes you want to go back and reexamine Philips’ catalogue, as you may realize you’ve been under-appreciating his talent.
The album comes out on November 4th on Compass Records. Listen to the pre-released singles below!