Jim Guthrie’s second proper solo release (and his U.S. debut), Now, More Than Ever, is a departure from 2002’s Morning Moon Night, a homespun record he patched together using PlayStation’s MTV Music Generator. Ditching the digital and using a more organic approach (with full band in tow, including Owen Pallett and Mike Olson of Hidden Cameras and Bry Webb of The Constantines), Now, More Than Ever is filled with intricate folk-pop tunes that are both instantly charming and ever so melancholic—without being melodramatic. The album begins with the plucky banjo and waltzy cello of “Problem With Solutions” and the lush, fluttering string arrangement of “All Gone.” Guthrie’s voice is apprehensive, blending warily with the rest of his band (not surprising for an artist whose likeness is nowhere to be found on the album’s sleeve, but surely as he evolves as an artist, those vocals will find their way to the top of the mix). The album is so full of endearing, awkward indie-pop arrangements and surprising twists (the menacing, metal-folk guitar—or is that an electric violin, or both?—on “Save It” is of particular note) that the fact Guthrie has something interesting, clever, or funny to say is just icing on the cake: “Sometimes words just sound like noise/Other times noise makes the prettiest sound,” he sings on “Problem With Solutions.” He employs said noise on the pretty instrumental title track—which could be the score to a shaggy-haired, bell-bottomed coming-of-age drama (second only to the ’70s singer-songwriter supermarket-style wind instruments of “So Small”)—and while the album is considerably more polished than its predecessor, there’s a whole lot of background tinkering going on, from the sound of sirens and rain on “The Evangelist” to the squeaky floorboards on the opening track. Definitely worth several spins for full effect.
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