Tobin Sprout – Sentimental Stations

Tobin Sprout
Sentimental Stations

Tobin Sprout is something of a modern-day renaissance man: he’s both a talented musician and an impressive realist painter. He has a long and distinguished alt-rock music career under his belt, and is known for his time with Guided By Voice, as well as for several acclaimed solo albums. A gallery on Sprout’s web site showcases some of his astonishingly realistic paintings. Occasionally, he has combined the two crafts to create cover artwork for his own albums.
Sprout’s latest release is a medium-length disc called Sentimental Stations. It opens with “Secret Service,” a simple, atmospheric song in which the gloomy phrase “in her majesty’s secret service” is repeated over and over. This type of layered, hypnotic effect is used with even better results on the next track, “Branding Dennis,” an unusual and menacing instrumental that hints toward an explosive climax that never actually occurs. No harm done. The song that stands out the most may be “Doctor #8,” a mournful piano number that brings to mind some of Hayden and Ben Fold’s best sad tunes.
“I Think You Would” and “Inside the Blockhouse” are more straightforward, jangly guitar numbers, each showcasing Sprout’s emotive vocal style and excellent ear for catchy hooks. While big, open guitar chords are the most common base for Sprout’s songs, they are often augmented with keyboard effects and programmed drums to keep things interesting. The songs never descend into novelty territory, though; Sprout seems to understand that studio trickery is no substitute for a well-written song.
This type of simple, catchy music is often attempted with mediocre results. Sprout, however, has hit the nail right on the head: Sentimental Stations is a real treat and another proud addition to the already impressive Tobin Sprout catalog.