Monday, September 6, 2010

First Listen: Philip Selway, Familial

Now this is a surprise. Phil Selway is the drummer for Radiohead, when Thom Yorke isn't moaning over computer beats. I was stunned to hear his contributions to Neil Finn's Seven Worlds Collide project last year - folksy, melodic songs, with no sense of importance or irony about them. I was intrigued.

So here's Familial, Selway's full-length debut, and it's practically a Nick Drake record. Hushed, acoustic, fragile, pretty, sometimes nearly inaudible. Selway has a lightweight, even voice that works reasonably well for this material, and he co-wrote these 10 songs with Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansone (both of Wilco) and Lisa Germano, among others.

For starters, there are more genuine songs with actual melodies on here than on anything Radiohead has done since 1997. But that's an easy shot. Familial is a sweet little record on its own, even without Selway's pedigree - although without that, it probably wouldn't have been released - and deserves a listen free of prejudice. What you'll find is something small and endearing, and after a few spins, the likes of "A Simple Life" and "Don't Look Down" will haunt you. I hope Selway does more of these. Familial is a cool oasis in a vast rock wasteland.

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