I fell in love with Griffin House (in a purely heterosexual way, of course) a couple of years ago. His major label debut album (Lost & Found) had just been released through Nettwerk. There was a sticker on the front - a short quote from a review of the album. The quote said something to the effect of, "The first lines of Griffin House's hushed debut sound like Bono quietly singing Johnny Cash." So, I thought to myself, "Hey, I like Bono. I like Johnny Cash. Yeah...I think I'll like this guy." As it turned out, he was coming to town to do a show in a couple of weeks, so I bought the album without listening to it.
And I loved it. I could definitely hear the Bono in his voice. He had such rich vocals, and, when he stretched his voice to "scream", it was still rich, but a little raspy, like you could tell he was only doing so out of necessity. I was also a huge fan of his songwriting. Between the two, I was telling everyone about this guy, the next great singer/songwriter, with great songwriting skills and a voice that'll knock you out. Not many people listened, which was sad. I even heard taunts of "Hey...Are you sure that isn't Ryan Adams?" upon playing his album for people. They'll learn...they'll all learn.
So just imagine how excited I was for new music from him. I downloaded it as soon as it was posted...And spent the next week trying to convince myself that it was good.
Once again, I had fallen into the LaMontagne trap of setting up expectations of what an album (or artist) should sound like. Outside of maybe 4-5 songs, there's not much on this album that sounds like his last one.
But that's good.
After about 5 listens, I started to get into the album a little more. After 7, I couldn't stop listening to it. Every song on here is great. Some sound a little out of place at first ("Czech Republic" was the main culprit), but, the more you listen to it, the more you really start to look forward to every song.
Griffin does a little bit of everything on this album. Epic 80s pop ("Live to Be Free"), rockabilly ("'Cause I Miss You"), ode to Cash train songs, ("Downtown Line"), upbeat love/breakup songs ("The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind"), and a perfect closer ("Go Out on My Own").
That's not to say that the album sounds schizophrenic. Not once have I thought, "Man, I wish he would stick to one style," while listening to this album. It all seems to fit together as a whole, no matter how different some of the songs may be.
And it always good to see someone stretch themselves as an artist, especially this early on in their career. We should expect nothing less than excellence from Griffin in the future...And I know he'll produce.
One final thought. Last night Sharon and I were both in the living room. I was playing Madden while Sharon was studying for a test. I had this album playing in the background. During the first song, she turned to me and asked if this was Griffin House. I said yes. When "Czech Republic" came on a couple of tracks later, she stopped, looked at me, and we had this exchange:
Sharon: Who is this?
Me: Still Griffin House.
Sharon: I like it. I just didn't think that he could do something this different.
Always stretching himself. Yeah...that's what I'm looking for in an artist.
Essential Tracks: "Downtown Line", "Lead Me On", "Only if You Need Me", "Go Out on My Own"
Favorite Tracks: "Burning Up the Night", "The Guy That Says Goodbye to You is Out of His Mind"
(Afternote: This album is currently not available in stores, but you can purchase a copy of it through Griffin's website, www.griffinhousemusic.com, or you can download it from that same site or through iTunes.)