Neil Finn's latest is a solitary affair. Quiet. Thoughtful. Contemplative. A bit of a bummer...
But how could it not be? Its songs are filled with violent imagery about war and terrorism and love and death. Out of Silence is a troubling album for the troubling times in which we live.
Thematically, it's a heavy record. Musically, however, it's ornate, elegant and quite astonishing. Finn leading from the front on a gorgeous Steinway grand piano, tastefully augmented by an orchestra and a pop choir. The arrangements are subtle, yet rich and exquisite and filled with admirable restraint.
Take the stark gospel of The Law is Always on Your Side, a brief yet affecting song about police violence that has Finn outright rejecting the song's title, singing, "They took away her son, when it's plain to see he was not doing any harm".
Or the devastating, delicate beauty of Terrorise Me, one of the greatest songs he's ever written.
The song is his response to the atrocious terrorist attack on music lovers at an Eagles of Death Metal gig at Paris' Bataclan theatre. In falsetto, he coldly threatens the agents of terror before promising France that "I will sing for you when I return".
"It may not change a lot, but I'll give it everything I've got. It will come alive because of you."
It's a challenge to remain dry-eyed.
Then there's the haunting, exotica-singed Widow's Peak. A song about taking his dog for a walk on a former battleground.
"Follow trails in mud, you can smell the blood, buried under my feet," he sings, as a lone bell rings out and the song's ghostly refrain of, "boys go marching off to war", closes the song.
As the title suggests, the sound of silence plays a big part of the record. Songs often build from the bare beginnings of Finn and his piano and the tracks are filled with quiet pauses and build-ups that climax into a whisper.
Indeed drums only show up on two songs; the shuffling fatalistic single Second Nature ("freaking out with the knowledge that everyone dies") and the 60s pop journey of Chameleon Days, a song about God plotting to kill you ("God is rolling numbers while I'm making a plan").
Finn's masterful use of contrast, the way he conjures emotions and shifts easily from the dark into the light and back again between verses is simply wondrous. He makes this stuff look effortless but it's really not.
The songs here are made for quiet meditation. The more you listen, the more they reveal of themselves and the more you'll discover that will simply take your breath away.
Out of Silence is a heavy trip, but goddamn is it a beautiful one. A quietly astonishing album that's worth shouting about.
strong>Artist: Neil Finn
Album: Out of Silence
Verdict: Quietly astonishing.