Friday, January 30, 2009

Review: Peter Adams - I Woke With Planets In My Face (* * * * 1/2)

I'm going to get the crux of this review over with right here: Peter Adams made one of the best albums of 2008 and almost nobody noticed. Now you should proceed immediately to and download I Woke With Planets In My Face for whatever price you choose (make sure you throw him some money, the guy has earned it). If you'd like to stick around, or if you made it back, I'll go into a little more detail about why I believe this album deserves such high praise.

First, though, a brief introduction. Peter Adams is a multi-instrumentalist who has been making music since 2005, when he released his first album, The Spiral Eyes. That would make last year's record his sophomore effort, which he performed, recorded, and produced entirely by himself. Adams is a classically trained violinist and is adept at a host of other instruments including the guitar, piano, drums, bass, and synths (to name just a few, really). While some one-man bands primarily entertain on more of a novelty level, Adams' music is impressive on it's own terms; the fact that he composes and records by himself just makes it all the more amazing.

Adams draws comparisons to Neutral Milk Hotel, Flaming Lips, and Radiohead, but doesn't sound particularly like any of them. His high tenor voice is fairly unique, and his inclusion of Eastern musical influences also sets him apart, but his music's most distinctive quality lies in the fullness and complexity of his arrangements. Songs frequently and smoothly shift between different styles and tempos while instruments come and go, building to crescendo and then fading into the background. "Conversation With the Moon" and "The Seventh Seal" are examples of Adams' ability to create expansive, dynamic songs that are fairly epic in scope, while "Sprinkler Song For Jessica" and "Into the Mist" are much more intimate and delicate. Although he primarily eschews formal song structures, Adams can also write a great pop-rock tune, as evidenced by the rockin' "Ziggurat" and the oddball, kazoo-filled tale of "Annabel Lee."

Each song on the record feels formed from a separate set of influences, yet everything is tied together by a certain stylistic thread that keeps the project compelling from start to finish. "Planets" is an album that's infinitely better than the amount of the attention it's gotten, a collection of songs that is beautiful, surprising, and completely captivating. Once again, don't take my word for it, hear both of Peter Adams' albums on his site and purchase either or both for whatever price you think is fair (or order a physical copy if you're so inclined). I don't mean to sound like an advertisement, but this really is music you shouldn't be without.