ALBUM: The Fall
ARTIST: Joshua Radin
Album release date: January 27
The Linear Lovestruck
Mellow. Quiet. Emotional. Poignant. Touching. These are words that have been used innumerable times to describe the music of Cleveland-born Joshua Radin, who now resides in New York City and just released his seventh studio album.
Many people are familiar with Radin’s work because way back in the early 2000s, his childhood friend Zach Braff put in a good word for him with the producers of Scrubs, who agreed to use one of Radin’s pensive songs as background for a particularly emotional scene in an episode. The Scrubs website crashed the night the episode in question aired, due to the sheer number of people wanting to know who wrote the tune; and the rest is television-soundtrack and Myspace history, not dissimilar to the career trajectory of Ingrid Michaelson.
Radin admits that it was this event, and the waves of new fans it brought with it, that inspired him to do music full-time. Before picking up the guitar for the first time at the age of 30, Radin had worked as a painter and screenwriter. He hadn’t had a “break” as an artist, however, until his television placement; after that, his music became a hot commodity in the television world and gained a broader spectrum of fans. “I think for almost every song I’ve written someone’s called and asked me, ‘Can we use that?'” he says.
Acoustic guitar, hand percussion, some sweeping piano, introspective lyrics built around everyday images involving love, loss, depression, renewal: this is the niche Joshua Radin has nestled himself into, with all the staying-power of a cicada. The only variation in this newest album from all the rest, he says, is the fact that he himself produced it: “I don’t think there’s much different. It’s like you’re opening up a new diary and reading my journal entries: which is just like my last six albums.”
And it’s true: though Radin does a lovely job of singing in a low, hushed tone and writing sweet love songs to some ineffable “you”, he never really has elaborated on the concept. Even within a given album, including his latest, the songs themselves sound much alike: beneath their first-date soundtrack veneer, there is very little design or substance to these diddies. Though Radin cites Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Neil Young as major influences, the main similarities he shares with these men are that they all played the guitar and wrote tunes: beyond that, though, it’s hard to find much common ground. Radin is comfortable and surface-level where Dylan, Simon, and Young are imaginative – sometimes to the point of being repellent – and able to tell stories from angles other than their own. It was their very dynamism that set them apart as people other singer-songwriters look to. Radin has chosen the path of comfort and predictability, and the sound is beginning to feel tired.
Still, there’s no doubt some fans will appreciate the homogeneity of his music: there are people who want the music they listen to to bring them back, again and again, to where-ever they were in life the first time they heard it. If 2004 was the finest year of your life, Joshua Radin will gladly bring you there, keep you there, and lull you to sleep there.