Review: Joseph Arthur - Our Shadows Will Remain

No one ever accused Joseph Arthur of not taking things seriously enough, but Our Shadows Will Remain is awfully dark, even for him. Growling with a mixture of depression and eternal cynicism that must have Trent Reznor writhing with jealousy, Arthur steers away from mere acoustic-based moping into a period of darker reflection, cranking the bass and adding a good deal of sythesized beats behind his characteristically solid songwriting. The end result is an intriguingly unique record, and surprisingly satisfying.

Arthur's always asked the spiritual questions no one wants to, but on Shadows, he seems to have found some answers, and doesn't seem happy with them. He debated his faith back and forth throughout 2002's Redemption Son, when he both pleaded "forgive us for what we've done, Lord," and sighed "it's so hard for me to believe, I'm still waiting for you to call." Shadows seems to fall mostly in the latter camp, and there's a good deal of rage in Arthur's tone. "Where are you? What did I do?" he begs in "Devil's Broom, "since you've gone, ain't nobody else gonna save me."

But the record is more than a study in bitterness, and Arthur counterpoints the more painful tracks with others that sparkle with passion and, buried under it all, hope. "I'd hold you in my arms until we came back down," he promises on "A Smile That Explodes." It's not a lot of confidence, but at the end of it all, you get the impression that maybe Arthur's hasn't stopped fighting with his demons after all.

Strongest Tracks: "Wasted," "A Smile That Explodes," "Leave Us Alone," and the eerie 46-second opening track, "In Ohio," in which Arthur's gorgeous falsetto promises over a thudding solo baseline, "I'm gonna wait up for you."

Weakest Tracks: The overly sentimental "Echo Park," and the repetitive, downright narcissistic "I Am."

Breakdown: Three and a Half Stars out of Five