Out of Silence

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday October 24, 2017

Out of Silence

The ten songs of Neil Finn's new solo album come and go with a flash of sweetness. Partly, that's a function of the album's brief running time -- only 36 minutes -- but it's also a matter of time flying when you're having fun.

While "Out of Silence" is hardly as layered or complex as Finn's very best work, 1998's "Try Whistling This," its effortless beauty marks it out as superior to 2014's "Dizzy Heights." Ethereal melodies and a somber, reflective mood characterize most of the songs, including the opening track "Love Is Emotional," the stark "Alone," the mournful "Terrorise Me," and the album-ending ballad "I Know Different."

The second and third tracks, "More Than One of You:" and "Chameleon Days," seem like different riffs on the same idea: That every person has a multitude of facets. Of the two, "Chameleon Days" is somewhat more upbeat and a little deeper, emerging from a rippling pool of sound like a mythic creature to entrance the listener. (Finn's falsetto vocal performance lends to the sense of otherworldly enchantment, as do the backup singers who recur regularly across the album's clutch of tracks.)

The standout of this collection is the instantly addictive "Second Nature," a piano-driven piece given loft by those same backup singers and a well-deployed string section. (This album was recorded using an orchestra, used to best advantage here as elsewhere.)

Sweeter and more mournful is "The Law is Always on Your Side," a blues-tinged song that decries militarized and aggressive police officers who are too quick to draw and fire on unarmed citizens with mental or emotional health issues.

If the album has a duff tune, it's "Widow's Peak," another piano-based piece with an elegiac mood that fails to gel. Clunky passages are knitted together by melodious refrains, but the song's text and music alike have a half-baked quality, and it's unclear just what Finn's getting at.

Still, that's one song out of ten. It sticks out more here than it might have on "Try Whistling This" or 2001's "One Nil" simply because this album is so short and its overall palette so much narrower, but it's hardly a deal breaker. The rest of "Out of Silence" is just so gorgeous, and hooks you on such a visceral level, that you readily forgive its few flaws.

Just as intriguing as the songs are the "Infinity Sessions," the four-part Youtube series Finn broadcast throughout August when he gathered every Friday evening with his band and assorted guest players to rehearse the new songs, play around with older material, and hear what his friends had been up to. The fourth -- and by far the longest -- of these Youtube broadcasts showcased the recording of the album., which involved multiple takes and some fascinating deliberations between Finn and his collaborators. (The single "Second Nature" had been given similar treatment a week or so earlier in an equally absorbing broadcast.)

Those four videos offer unparalleled insight into Finn's creative process and constitute some priceless moments of music-making. The links are provided below.

Overall, "Out of Silence" ranks among Finn's best solo work. The songwriter is older, his musical rumination more refined, and the atmosphere of the new album poignant. As a songwriter, Finn is masterful; "Out of Silence" feels like a point of arrival from which he surveys the past and puts out tenuous feelers for a brighter future.


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"Out of Silence"
Neil Finn


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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.