Joseph Arthur
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Big City Secrets , 6.5/10
Come To Where I'm From , 7/10
Redemption's Son , 5/10
Our Shadows Will Remain (2004), 5/10
Nuclear Daydream (2006), 4/10
Let's Just Be (2007), 3/10

Joseph Arthur is a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist from Akron (Ohio). Relocating to New York and immersing in the city's intellighentia, Arthur produced an album of striking originality, Big City Secrets (RealWorld, 1997), that wed electronica, soul balladry, folksinging and hard-rock. The eclectic collection boasted such diverse material as the stark Leonard Cohen-esque meditation Crying Like A Man, the disorienting shuffle Big City Secrets (Hall & Oates for the digital age), the dejected Nick Drake-ian lament Daddy's On Prozac, the rocking power-ballad Birthday Card, the litany grafted on an Irish square dance Mikel K, and a couple of ballads over syncopated electronic dance rhythms (Mercedes and Good About Me). The most creative arrangements were perhaps Marina, a psichedelic ditty a` la Brit-pop with horn fanfare and pounding drums, and the viscous Porcupine, riding over swampy exotic percussion.
Arthur belongs to the generation of existential storytellers and arrangers such as Beck and Jeff Buckley, but his debt to the melancholy songwriters of the past is more evident. The album was followed by the EP Vacancy (Under Cover Music Group, 1999).

Come To Where I'm From (Virgin, 2000), a far less adventurous album, dispensed with the digital ambitions and aimed for simpler and catchier songs such as In The Sun, a classic-sounding pop aria, Ashes Everywhere, stately and melodic like early Neil Young, Chemical, that blends soothing vocals a` la Byrds and a harsher riff a` la Tom Petty, Tattoo, a grand semi-waltzing hymn-like lullaby, Cockroach, that borrows a bit of Syd Barrett's psychedelic madness and a bit of Gram Parsons' hippie harmonies. The standout is probably the one screaming and rocking song on the album, Exhausted. The most articulate arrangements are to be found in the claustrophobic Eyes On My Back (a spare piano elegy) and the gloomy Invisible Hands (an electronic trip-hop). The whole is compact, profound and compelling. Throughout the eclectic proceedings he maintains an elegant composure that he eventually loses in the rambling Creation Of A Stain. Other than that, Arthur's journey is as smooth as a loner's gaze into the abyss.

Arthur released 18 new tracks on 4 EPs titled Junkyard Hearts.

Another sprawling collection, Redemption's Son (Real World, 2002), does not add anything to what Arthur already said but does test the patience of the listener, as most of these songs are filler. The title-track is a harrowing account of a death, and Dear Lord is a Van Morrison-ian sermon. That's about it. Arthur's proverbial care in crafting ornate soundscapes for his stories is at a peak, but his inspiration for writing those stories is not.

Our Shadows Will Remain (Vector, 2004) is a humbler effort that returns to the basics. A Smile That Explodes, a duet with Julia Darling, and the thunderous Stumble and Pain, with a string orchestra, are typical of how Arthur may lose direction when he's at his best.

Nuclear Daydream (2006) contains Enough To Get Away. Let's Just Be (2007) is an 80-minute album that contains perhaps 10 minutes of mediocre music and 70 minutes of utterly disposable songs.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Milena Ferrante) Joseph Arthur e` un cantante e pluristrumentista di Akron (Ohio). Dopo essersi trasferito a New York ed aver stratto legami profondi con l'intellighenzia locale, Arthur ha prodotto un disco di sorprendente originalitÓ, Big City Secrets (RealWorld, 1997), seguito dall'EP Vacancy (Under Cover Music Group, 1999). Arthur appartiene alla generazione di cantastorie e arrangiatori esistenziali quali Beck e Jeff Buckley, ma l'ereditÓ dei cantautori melanconici del passato (specialmente Leonard Cohen) Ŕ ancor pi¨ evidente.

Lo spleen diCome To Where I'm From (Virgin, 2000) suona quasi come trip hop (History, Speed Of Light, e la tortuosaCreation Of A Stain).

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