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Tobin Sprout, Lost Planets & Phantom Voices

reviewed by Dave heaton

At this point in career, Tobin Sprout seems to have perfected the act of using melody and emotional yet mysterious lyrics as the basis of wonderful pop-rock songs. His three previous solo albums, and the album he did with his band Eyesinweasel, all occupy a fairly similar place in music--think the Beatles meets Flying Nun Records, perhaps. Yet they never felt redundant, simply because Sprout seemed to have so many great new melodies to give us.

At the same time, it's refreshing to hear how he seems to be pushing himself into new styles on his latest album Lost Planets & Phantom Voices. In particular, he's pushing further into the mystery, emphasizing atmosphere and tinkering with psychedelia, yet all without diminishing his supreme talents as a pop songwriting in any way. In fact, to my ears his songs are catchier and more tuneful than ever. While his 1999 album Let's Welcome the Circus People had its fair share of moments that seemed like experiments for Sprout, here he manages to do the same without making these moments stand out as oddities or mis-steps.

Lost Planets & Phantom Voices is a cohesive journey into both melodic heaven and an enigmatic haze. Take the song "Rub Your Buddha Tummy," for example--it has a typical Sprout tune yet ends with some really on-fire psychedelic guitar. Or "Catch the Sun," which feels both like a typically melancholy Tobin Sprout ballad and an exercise in 60s-style tripping-out. There's also a pair of organ-led eccentric instrumentals that work nicely as interludes between pop songs.

Above all, though, what makes Lost Planets & Phantom Voices one of the best albums I've heard in a long time has little to do with the extra dreamy sheen and everything to do with it being the best display yet of Tobin Sprout's amazing songwriting. Everything any one ever loved about Tobin Sprout is here, in full force. Ending with perhaps the prettiest song he's ever written, the enigmatic yet tender "Let Go of My Beautiful Balloon," Lost Planets & Phantom Voices is sublime.

{Note: Visit Recordhead's site and the Tobin Sprout site}

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