A set of innocuous introspection that will appeal to Jack Johnson fans.
Mike Diver 2010-04-09
The not-so-new new album from Ohio-raised singer-songwriter Joshua Radin has been available for nearly two years, but is only now receiving an official UK release. That being the case, the claim from the team behind it, that Radin is “fast emerging”, is a bare-faced lie. That the one-sheet accompanying press copies of Simple Times then lists the artist’s famous fans before making any mention of the music itself doesn’t bode well either. But cut through the celebrity fawning and there’s a pleasant, if glaringly generic, little record to be found.
Simple Times is Radin’s second long-player, following 2006’s We Were Here. This record fared well in the US, buoyed by the endorsement of Zach Braff, actor in popular hospital-set sitcom Scrubs and director of the video to Radin’s song Closer, from his debut. The relationship between the two has carried over onto this collection: I’d Rather Be With You also benefits from a Braff-helmed video. All of which counts for nothing, though, once the music has to stand alone, restricted to stimulating just the single sense. And assessed purely on its aural merits, Simple Times is a set that demands little of the listener, a brief distraction but not 11 tracks to dive into as means of escape from the everyday.
Radin’s modus operandi is nothing new – singer with decent-enough voice accompanied by mainly acoustic instrumentation – and he lacks the individuality needed to absolutely shine in a crowded marketplace. There’s nothing actually wrong here – okay, Vegetable Car is awful. But despite its accomplished shine, too much of Simple Times follows a terribly predictable path, to the extent where Radin’s words fade into the background hubbub of one’s daily grind. Which is a shame, because he’s not without his moments: opener One of Those Days is really nice, where nice is meant as no damning faint praise, and the Patty Griffin-featuring You Got Growin’ Up to Do is similarly pretty.
Previous comparisons to Elliott Smith do Radin few favours, as he possesses neither the emotional depth nor the endearing vulnerability of the late Omaha singer. He’s closer to the massively popular likes of Jack Johnson and Paolo Nutini – softly spoken and gentle of guitar, but unlikely to ever feature on a best-of-anything list. Should such an approach appeal, you’ll likely take Radin’s innocuous introspection straight to heart.