If you were wondering where Radiohead’s drummer, Phillip Selway, was when Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood formed the super group, The Smile, with Sons of Kemet drummer, Tom Skinner, he’s been busy writing his own music for soundtracks, and just came out with an album fit for an accomplished film composer slash songwriter, called, Strange Dance. “And in this strange dance / Hold me in your arms tonight / Cause it’s the one time / I can honestly say / That nothing stands in our way / And I’m alive.”
The new album favors his orchestral-influenced Let Me Go original soundtrack more than his post-punk 2014 album, Weatherhouse. He’s always had a much cleaner approach than the often buzzed out, mathy (and polymathy) Radiohead, and that is the hallmark of this album: clean (if sometimes satisfyingly strange) sounds and straightforward (though often moving) lyrics. “Don’t believe what they say,” he starts with full-on compassion, to open the album on “Little Things.” “Little things / Take their toll / Weigh you down / Little things / Test us all / Make you doubt.” “Don’t believe what they say.”
The 55-year old composer has said that he doesn’t plan on shying away from age-relevant songs in his writing, though some of the songs on this album reach years back. But there are seasoned songs about losing your internal compass, being kept up into the wee hours of the night, worrying, and wanting to “Make It Go Away.” “What if there’s a lightning strike on the plane? / What if there’s a fire and nobody came? / I’m counting on you / You’ll save the day / I won’t stop now / Make it go away.”
Accompanied on this album by a “dream team,” made up of multi-instrumentalist Quinta, cellist Laura Moody, electronic artist Hannah Peel, producer Marta Salogni, drummer Valentina Magaletti and Portishead’s Adrian Utley, the arrangements are always compelling, spacious, and adventurous. The link between the strangely beautiful music and the wizened earnestness behind Sellway’s voice and lyrics makes it a super touching listen.
While it is much more straightforward than Selway’s counterpoint, Radiohead, it is expertly composed so that the sound has a particularly Selwayian feel to it. Three albums in now, he has established himself as an accomplished driver in his own impressive, though decidedly slower, lane. It’s not many drummers that boast such a gift in songwriting and he does the Radiohead franchise proud.
Order Strange Dance by Philip Selway HERE
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