Love and Other Planets
dem’s sound, with its painstaking attention to texture, depth, and space, doesn’t merely evoke images of acoustic guitars strummed by candlelight; it is those images. Adem crafts the perfect sonic template for his delicate songs: you can smell the smoke in your ears. Love and Other Planets’ distinct production isn’t quite enough to ignore its shortcomings, though. In fact, it may be the problem.
Love and Other Planets is sonically and melodically a virtual carbon copy of its predecessor, 2004’s subtly remarkable Homesongs. But if Homesongs was domesticated and introspective—perfectly suited to Adem’s production—Love and Other Planets is its opposite. Its songs recall open fields and cloudless star-filled skies and themes of cosmic interstellar battlestar galactica. Yet the album’s sound remains firmly rooted in the fireplace. In moving his thematic focus from the hearth to the cosmos, Adem’s music has inadvertently lost its proper context. His seemingly harmless overarching theme of matters extraterrestrial stitched through each of the album’s tracks somehow compromises their effectiveness. They don’t evoke properly.
What might’ve saved it was a song as emotionally and melodically powerful as Homesongs’ centerpiece, the irrefutably transcendent “These Are Your Friends.” That track, with its undeniable coda, “Everybody needs some help sometimes,” carried to its most logical extreme—forever—revealed the very best of what Adem was capable. Sadly, nothing here comes even remotely close.
There’s no lack of effort towards that goal, though. He tries to recreate the magic with the fully orchestrated and frighteningly close to actual “rocking” “Something’s Going to Come.” The song’s cyclical coda and endless refrains of “la-lala-la’s” are repeated, repeated, repeated until the song simply expires of its own volition. It wants to take flight, but something is missing. Its sound won’t let it go. This is highly ironic.
To be sure, the songs themselves remain astonishingly gorgeous in their subtlety: the twinkling accented xylophones of “Warning Call,” the delicate finger-picking of “Spirals,” and throughout all of Love and Other Planets Adem’s voice strikes the pitch-perfect balance of emotional authority and vulnerability.
But it isn’t enough. There is no centerpiece. There is no anchor.
Love and Other Planets, as its title suggests, ends up hopelessly drifting through the celestial blah blah. Get your head out of the clouds. All you need is a Duraflame log, a couple of autoharps, and you’re set. You don’t even have to leave the house.
Reviewed by: Barry Schwartz
Reviewed on: 2006-04-26