Artist: Tim Baker
Album: Forever Overheard
Release date: April 19, 2019
The deal. One thing that’s a little hard for me to wrap my head around, as a 40-something in 2019, is singer/songwriters embracing electronic elements. I’m very wedded to the James Taylor/Carole King model of an artist performing their own songs in front of acoustic instruments, preferably backing themselves. Baker’s solo debut strikes a nice balance between the acoustic and the electronic. The songs are beautiful and soulful, with some interesting, modern (to me) production touches.
Vocally Baker, of the Canadian rock band Hey Rosetta!, which is on hiatus, sounds like a cross between Paul Simon and Adam Granduciel, of The War on Drugs. Baker’s voice has a stronger intensity, though, and he’s not afraid to embrace a nice falsetto. But his songs share a pop, folk, and Americana sensibility with the War on Drugs. Baker’s songs are much less dense, though.
The album has a relaxed feel, but it’s not sleepy. Rather Baker trusts his songs, letting them unfurl in a natural manner. A track like “The Sound of the Machines” has a Jeff Buckley melody and mournful piano but doesn’t feel dull, or like you’re stuck listening to someone at a bad open mic. He holds your attention without resorting to volume. But even when he’s performing with a full band, like on the 50s-influenced “Don’t Let Me Go Yet,” his voice manages to serve as the focal point of the song, without theatrics.
Straight talk. Baker is a wonderfully talented performer and songwriter. Marcus Paquin’s production also deserves credit here. Some of the songs have a lot going on, like the cool synths on “Dance” and “Strange River,” which sort of sound like an electric kazoo, and which totally works for the song. But Baker doesn’t get lost in the track. At the same time, he never sounds alone; even on the sparser songs. A lot of the credit goes to Baker for that, but the sensitive production puts Baker in a position to thrive.
The confession. This was sent to me a couple of different ways and I still missed out on it. It hit me as I was working on a few other reviews and I just didn’t have the bandwidth to give it my full attention. Once I gave this a few plays, I was hooked. And then I felt like a jerk for not reviewing it somewhere.
Closing arguments. It probably says more about me than the music, but I often find singer/songwriters kind of whiny. That’s not the case with Forever Overheard. I love its strength, but I also love its happy tone. Baker doesn’t sound like he’s having a good time in a sleazy, David Lee Roth kind of way, but he sounds proud of his songs and glad to be sharing them. You’ll be glad you heard them, too.
So much amazing music comes out all of the time. I review what I can as quickly as I can, working my physical and digital piles as efficiently as possible, but things fall between the cracks. Rather than giving up on things that are a little past their prime, contemporary-review-standards-wise, I’m going back for the overflow that deserves to be heard — even if it’s a little late.