oRSo My Dreams Are Back And They Are Better Than Ever

[Perishable; 2004]

Styles:  singer/songwriter
Others: Sufjan Stevens, Will Oldham, Cub Country, My Morning Jacket

Occupying some nebulous space between some solid singer/songwriter tendencies and subdued, vaguely asymmetrical soundtrack music, oRSo -- the project of songwriter Phil Spirito (formerly of Rex, HiM, Loftus, and Out In Worship) -- manages to carve a neat but ultimately unsatisfying little pocket for Spiritio's placid tunes to reside.

Although Spirito's lilting melodies are supported by consistently interesting chord changes and tight arrangements (many tracks feature violin, saxophone, banjo, and weird bits of percussion in addition to the standard guitar-bass-drums combo), My Dreams Are Back And They Are Better Than Ever often feels like there's more of other people's work in his songs than there is of Spirito. Cases in point: "Wedding Song" sounds suspiciously like Greetings From Michigan-era Sufjan Stevens, while "Loaded For Bear" could pass for a solo Jim James outtake.

Despite the common ground Spirito shares with a few artists, oRSo definitely seem to have their own thing going. Tracks like "Oh Look Singing I Can Watch This" (which wouldn't sound too out of place on a James L. Brooks film soundtrack with its quirky, almost whimsical melody) and the vaguely Eastern-tinged "Milanesa Two" prove that oRSo have a much more expansive, vivid sound brewing than an initial listen might let on.

oRSo certainly hints at some interesting things over the course of the record, but the group never quite realizes them. I hate to place the blame squarely on Spirito's vocals, which are pretty inoffensive, but I found oRSo to be at their best when they did away vocals and just let the music stand on its own. (Any big-time Hollywood producers should take note of oRSo when scouting for low-budget artists to do soundtrack work.) All in all, My Dreams Are Back And They Are Better Than Ever is a solid but flawed release.

1. Wedding Song
2. Blind Date
3. Oh Look Singing I Can Watch This
4. Hartz Of Darkness
5. Everymans Blues
6. Loaded For Bear
7. Milanesa One
8. Is Christmas Tomorrow
9. Milanesa Two
10. Old Times
11. Crown Point
12. Stick Your Neck Out