Adam Green Sixes and Sevens

[Rough Trade; 2008]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: songwriter, indie pop
Others: Jonathan Richman, Jens Lekman

On the heels of Juno’s massive popular success, we’re given a fifth offering from Adam Green, the original male part to “Anyone Else But You.” Of course, Mr. Green is more than that Moldy Peach who half-sings that one song from that hip film, and with Sixes and Sevens he adds to an oeuvre that’s already expansive for a songwriter still on the right side of thirty. It’s a record of 20 shorter tracks assembled as a collage of ideas that lend themselves to collection, without any possessing stature above the others. It’s a method conducive to the expression and exploration of disparate ideas, both sonically and topically, leading the listener through rapid bursts of melodic storytelling. This approach is well-suited to Green’s eclectic and prolific nature, with the one constant being his massive voice, clipping along with a soul that far exceeds its years. In fact, it’s still hard for me to reconcile this voice with the all-too-young face splashed across the LP’s cover.

Sixes and Sevens bubbles with a jazzy enthusiasm often suffused with peppy female backings stretching upwards as though in praise. The instrumentation is full and diverse (if occasionally bloated), weaving brass with strings with xylophone, carving a dynamic pathway through the terse lilting cuts. This diversity is welcome on a record with so many songs and ideas floating about, but it’s not always as well realized as it might be, and it lacks the clarity and ingenuity of, say, the paradigmatic 69 Love Songs. Admittedly, that isn’t a fair comparison, and Sixes and Sevens isn’t rooted in the kind of ambition that supports that album; but The Magnetic Fields’ triple-LP remains a standard against which divergent records can be measured, as each song fits so well within a larger thematic context. (Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs might be a better point of reference for this project, but the initial conclusion remains the same.)

Some of Green’s ideas are bound to stick better than others, and “Homelife” and “Festival Song” are both great pop songs (the latter something of an orchestral country piece), while “Leaky Flask” engages with spoken word vocals and chugging rhythmic percussion; and, perhaps aiming to capitalize on the recent interest in “Anyone Else But You,” Green includes a solid male/female duet in “Drowning Head First.” The choral euphoria in “Festival Song” is emblematic of the soulfulness that’s generated when Green is at his best, and the strings in “It’s a Fine” are laid gorgeously atop clever acoustic picking, revealing the positive possibility of restrained instrumental excess.

The trouble with Sixes and Sevens is that some tracks lack anything compelling enough to engender repeated listenings, and these tracks tend to bleed into the more worthwhile efforts. Through it all, Green’s show tune-y vocals are at center stage, and though the compositions are often too busy and can detract from his rolling lyrical intricacies, Sixes and Sevens is a very good record, if still a step short of great.

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