Joshua Radin | Underwater
Arriving as his musical relevance was at risk of fading indefinitely, Joshua Radin’s Underwater is his first album since 2010. Although his first album, 2006’s We Were Here projected Radin to the much coveted (albeit transitory) position of folk poster child and drew attention from Rolling Stone and popular American TV shows (think Gossip Girl, Bones, and Scrubs to name just a few), Radin’s fade from the music scene since his similarly popular second album, 2008’s Simpler Times, has created anticipation and a quiet titter over whether his fourth album will match up to the previous three.
However, to make the determination of better or worse on an artist’s next album is a difficult thing to do. Should the album be drastically different and a complete departure from the expected in order to show diversity? Or should it be thematically similar, almost indistinguishable from the previous albums?
Radin, it seems, plays it safe, and Underwater feels so familiar to his previous works, that it becomes predictable. To be entirely frank, Underwater is so thematically identical that it leaves one wondering if Radin does much else other than sing and fall in and out of love. Where Radin’s lyrics were once praised as “poignant and refreshingly frank,” the reoccurring themes and tones of the tracks are beginning to put the integrity of the lyrics at question.
‘Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better’ is typical Radin, but it is appealing only in its optimism and folksy lyricism. From there the album gets lost in its predictability, as songs melt into one another due to their lack of diversity. ‘Five and Dime’ had a chance, but its disjointed sounds and aimless quality beg for a convergence of sound and purpose. The album’s pinnacle is its title track, as ‘Underwater’ is big and happy, but also true to the folksy soul that is so quintessentially Radin.
Yet for some, this cohesive sound may be pleasing, exactly what was hoped for, since Underwater features Radin’s same undeniably beautiful, sultry whisper of a voice crooning of better days, or depression, or (you guessed it) love.
While for loyal fans of Radin, this album may be everything they hoped for – a soundtrack relatable to their day to day life – Underwater is not an album that will amass any more followers. Lacking the depth and interest of the first two, this album doesn’t offer anything new, and falls short and flat.