Neil Finn – Out Of Silence (EMI)

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After four live-streamed sessions at Roundhead Studios, Neil Finn’s fourth solo album emerges, and it’s a beauty.

At age 59, it seems that Neil Finn is an artist comfortable in his own skin. So comfortable, in fact, that he was quite willing to produce this album in front of anyone who cared to log onto Youtube. The four sessions that took place last month resulted in 10 finished songs.

At this stage in his career Neil Finn seems less interested in pushing any musical boundaries, or working with eccentric producers, and more interested in writing and recording beautifully-crafted pop songs, which is what he’s done here.

Love Is Emotional, the album’s opening track, is typical of the album’s charms. Based around Finn’s piano playing, strings swell and a choir of backing vocalists reinforce Neil’s heartfelt vocal performance and lilting melody.

Indeed, the lead vocals do feel more like a performance than your standard studio album, possibly because of the nature of the recording process. And Finn’s Greek chorus of backing vocalists features some of New Zealand’s finest including Don McGlashan, Reb Fountain, Tiny Ruins and Lawrence Arabia.

But Neil’s most important collaborator here is string arranger Victoria Kelly. The two of them worked together of 2014’s Dizzy Heights and they continue to bring out the best in each other with Kelly’s strings creating a gentle sort of chamber pop for Neil’s songs to inhabit. In fact, there are hardly any drums to be heard on the record, save for two tracks, with piano, guitars and strings doing most of the heavy lifting.

Brother Tim Finn joins in to trade verses on Alone, adding a more vulnerable tone to the tune.

All this would be for naught if the songs weren’t there. But Finn’s gift for melody is in full bloom here and his willingness to slip into falsetto only adds to the charm of these songs.

With Out Of Silence, Neil Finn proves that there’s no need for studio trickery or “cutting-edge” production techniques as long as the songwriting and performances are up to snuff.

Despite that fact that you can go over to Youtube and watch this album being made, as the man says, there’s nothing to see here”, it’s all in music.

Marty Duda

1 COMMENT

  1. “At this stage in his career Neil Finn seems less interested in pushing any musical boundaries, or working with eccentric producers”

    I have to say you’re wrong on both counts. This may not be a musically eccentric album, but the manner in which it was made — rehearsed and recorded live on the internet — is certainly pushing boundaries. He’s the first to do it that I know of (Esperanza Spalding is doing something similar this month).

    And his last album Dizzy Heights just a few years ago was produced by noted eccentric producer David Fridmann. So I think the impression that he’s not challenging himself and just writing songs is not at all true.

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