These days, singer/songwriters are a dime a dozen, and it’s rare that one is able to craft pieces unique, touching, and fully realized enough to truly stand out from the pack. Fortunately, Greg Laswell is one such needle in the haystack. His newest LP, Landline, is a delightful and sobering experience full of poignant melodies and lyrics, delicate yet confident vocals, and bold, luscious production. It will take hold of your head and heart immediately and not let go for quite a while.
The follow-up to 2010’s Take a Bow, Landline is Laswell’s fourth LP. After relocating from LA to New York City, he used his wife’s parents’ church-turned-house in Maine to record the album. As for the title, its origin is less poetic than you’d think—the recording studio had no cell phone reception so everyone involved had to use older phones for calls. Joining Laswell on vocal duties are several female guests, including Ingrid Michaelson, Sia, Elizabeth Ziman, and Sara Bareilles. Together, they craft a song sequence that never ceases to amaze and affect as it demands continuous play.
“Come Back Down” is an addicting, powerful opener. Laswell and Bareilles exchange catchy, direct verses as various percussion builds and a central piano arpeggio keeps everything meaningful and centered. It’s fantastic. “I Might Drop By” is a more gentle and textured affair that features remarkable dynamics and reserved yet striking instrumentation, while “Another Life to Lose” is a perfect example of how great songs can be built upon a single recurring motif. Similar to Neverending White Light’s “Theme” pieces, this track dominates thanks to the way its melodies and production infiltrate the listener’s soul.
Moving forward, there isn’t a weak moment on Landline; every song is special. “Eyes On You” is a haunting and beautiful tale of longing, “Back to You” is a regretful ballad highlighted by Ziman’s cadence and the sorrow of strings, and “Dragging You Around” is an upbeat track that allows Sia’s charm to pervade its atmosphere. “New Year’s Eve” is another gem about loss and wandering, and every note and word is carefully placed to capitalize on the sentiments. “It’s Settled Now” is a dreamily mournful piece, while the title track closes the album with precise, refined majesty. Lead by acoustic guitar and accompanying piano, Laswell and Michaelson perform their duet with exceptional fragility, and the way the final line is repeated until the music eventually swells and drowns it out is superb.
Landline is an unforgettable record; it is sure to be celebrated and cherished by those who wear their emotions on their sleeves and have an affinity for great songwriting and well-suited arrangements. Again, songwriting, production, and performances rarely gel this wonderfully. Laswell and company have crafted something deeply personal and profound, and it’s destined to be a milestone in his career.