Joshua Radin – Simple Times
Record Label: Mom & Pop Music Co.
Release Date: September 9, 2008
There’s a fresh breeze blowing in through my window, carrying with it the crisp cool of fall and the sounds of a sleeping city. It’s starting to get chilly outside, but in my room, the weather’s wonderful. I’m halfway through my first listen of Joshua Radin’s sophomore effort, Simple Times, and the warmth I’m feeling isn’t just a side effect of my steaming cup of apple cider. I probably look like an idiot, staring out over the busy streets with a smile on my face, but I don’t care. It’s that sort of album.
Listeners were first introduced to Radin’s approachable folk in 2006 with the release of We Were Here. Supported by several prior appearances on the soundtrack of NBC’s Scrubs (thanks to Radin’s longtime friendship with Zach Braff), the singer/songwriter charmed audiences with wistfully sensitive melodies and delicate, descriptive lyrics. We Were Here brought Radin’s sun up over the horizon, but with Simple Times, he’s reached his zenith.
Gone is the layer of insecurity that lurked beneath the surface of Radin’s previous albums. Sure, his voice still quivers in that oh-so-lovable way, but this is clearly a more confident artist. His self-assurance, together with a subtly complex foundation of instrumentation that provides a complement to the finger-picked guitar lines, lends an air of graceful maturity to Simple Times. From the effortless joy of “Brand New Day” to the compelling collaborations (“Sky (feat. Meiko), “They Bring Me to You,” and “You Got Growin’ Up To Do (feat. Patty Griffin)”), Radin has proven his growth without drastically altering his signature sound. Even the small deviations that he makes are successes. “Vegetable Car,” a sticky-sweet pop tune complete with hand-claps, would probably be corny if it weren’t so damn catchy, and the supple strains of one of Radin’s most well-written songs to date, “No Envy No Fear,” provide a beautifully mellow conclusion to the album.
Radin’s strength is in his delivery, a fact that’s evident throughout the rolling hills of Simple Times. There are times, however, when the lyrics suffer in front of the record’s relaxed moods. As soft strings murmur and hum in the background of “Free of Me,” Radin stumbles through such duds as “I’m on my knees/ Crying out please/ Go now and don’t look back/ My life’s come off its tracks.” Ouch. Fortunately, these poetic slipups are few and far between, something which couldn’t be said as readily in the case of We Were Here.
Simple Times is, quite simply, a victory. The album couldn’t be named more appropriately. Once again, Radin has captured the natural beauty of the world with whispered words and the folk-infused strings of his guitar, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Out there, the leaves are changing and there’s talk of the first frost. In here, the sun is shining.