September 29, 2004

Soltero "The Tongues You Have Tied"

Tim Howard, the sole Soltero mastermind, recorded his latest album, The Tongues You Have Tied, during the middle of a really hard winter. In the liner notes, he describes the recording process, and it's a pretty funny little story involving alcohol, long walks, freezing cold and an obsession with the Mamas & Papas. It'll make you chuckle, and it certainly brings to life the next thirty minutes of your life.

The Tongues You Have Tied will test your threshhold for pain. Emotional pain, that is. Like winter, the album is cold, grey and depressing; occasionally the overcast skies are broken by the sun and by a humorous aside, but for the most part, you're left cold and alone. Howard, who sounds like a gruff, throaty Elliott Smith or a less rough Neil Young, has a real knack for writing pretty little folk ditties; though they're coated in melancholy, you'll still wind up hitting repeat after a few songs, especially "The Factory" and "Old-Time Promises." You'll be transported into a world of blueness, but that's okay, because it's perfectly natural to have days where you're sad-eyed and mopey.

When he started recording, Howard intended The Tongues You Have Tied to be an EP, but Howard was inspired to flesh it out. To his credit, he breaks from the monotony of singer-songwriter folk fare by adding several short, brief instrumental passages. This idea is an inspired one; it gives the album a seamless flow. He also mixes in songs with simple guitar arrangements with bigger, fuller accompaniment, so even though the album's a brief, thirty-minute affair, it's never a dull thirty minute affair. As it stands, this is a great little record by a young artist who's clearly onto something. It's a sad something, but it's something nonetheless. With fall's arrivial, perhaps another record of inspired sadness will be on its way. I certainly hope so.

---Joseph Kyle

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