Photo by Chris Orwig
Glen Phillips’ music is inherently bittersweet. As the voice of 1990s avatars of sincerity and thoughtful contemplation Toad the Wet Sprocket and in a steady, underappreciated solo career, he has honed the art of holding sadness while seeking joy. The sorrowful songs are laced with hope, while the jubilant songs always carry a small sigh.
Phillips’ previous solo album, 2016’s Swallowed by the New, was informed by divorce. It was blue, but clung to the possibility of renewal. It was a walk at dusk in December, a golden sunset filtered through bare branches. His new record There Is So Much Here is infused with new love and regeneration. There’s little musical reinvention here. Glen Phillips albums don’t dabble in electronics or take a detour into industrial rock. Instead, the focus is on mood, emotion, deep thoughts, and subtle iterations of his signature driving, yet tender, folk rock. His honeyed, familiar voice springs forth from a comfortable bed of music, from which he invites the listener to join him on a voyage of inner exploration.
There Is So Much Here plays out like a series of guided meditations. Each song swells with an inescapable sense of yearning gratitude. “Big Changes” chronicles the exhilarating discomfort of positive change, while “Other Birds of Prey” is a soaring ode to not letting little imperfections mar something great. The pensive, reverb-laden “The Sound of Drinking” celebrates the satisfaction found in small moments, asking the listener to contemplate the sound of drinking water, the turning of the leaves, the movement of the moon, the spaces in between. Chiming, effortlessly melodic album highlight “I Was a Riot” basks in the transformative power of new love, distilling the feeling into a nearly perfect line—I was a riot, you were the peace.
Although wholesale sonic reinvention is not Glen Phillips’ style, there are moments that add flourish to his trusty blueprint. Piano-led ballad “The Bluest Eye” starts with the quiet consideration of an early Paul Simon song, and finishes with a crescendo of Mellotron strings and a twinkling explosion of guitars that wouldn’t be out of place in a big Queen track. Meanwhile, string-swept album finale “Call the Moondust” brings to mind the closing number of a musical about spiritual rejuvenation, if it was written by the Beach Boys.
This is heartfelt, honest music that, as Phillips sings in buoyant album opener “Stone Throat,” is trying to find the balance between the sacred and the street. In the hands of a less skilled, or less earnest artist, material like this might sink under its own weight, or come off as the hollow urgings of an Instagram self-help influencer. But Phillips is incapable of being disingenuous. This nature, along with his well-honed songcraft, elevates There Is So Much Here. It is pleasant, but above all, it’s perceptive. | Mike Rengel
Glen Phillips will be performing live on Sunday, November 13th at Forest Hills Country Club (36 Forest Club Dr., Chesterfield) for a Breakrooms Concerts event benefiting the Open Door Animal Sanctuary. Tickets are $40 and include beer, wine, and cocktails. The show is sold out but is maintaining a waitlist. For more details, visit https://breakroomconcerts.com/glenphillips-nov-2022/.
Glen Phillips on tour:
11.10.22 | DENVER, CO | Soiled Dove Underground
11.13.22 | CHESTERFIELD, MO | Forest Hills Country Club
11.15.22 | MINNEAPOLIS, MN | Icehouse
11.16.22 | MILWAUKEE, WI | Colectivo Coffee on Prospect
11.17.22 | CHICAGO, IL | City Winery Chicago
11.18.22 | ANN ARBOR, MI | The Ark
11.20.22 | GRAND RAPIDS, MI | The Listening Room
12.07.22 | VENICE, CA | The Venice West