We start with the good: Luke Temple’s voice is still a wondrous instrument, a pure tenor that evokes a smoothed out Neil Young. It is that voice that made 2005’s Hold a Match for a Gasoline World one of the more pleasant surprises of that year. The primary problem of Snowbeast, Temple’s second album, is that he chooses to surround that voice with more voices, all manner of instruments, and professional production. On its own, this might not seem like a bad thing, but where on Hold a Match… Temple sounded humble and eager to please, he now sounds weary and wise. The production hides lackluster songs that rarely make an impression past the fact that they exist. Too often, Temple finds it necessary to tack an epilogue onto a song apparently deemed too short, artificially lengthening the running time by a minute or so via an extended instrumental jam that aimlessly trundles around and eventually floats into space. This trick mars the otherwise interesting opener “Saturday People”, as it does the soupy, dirge-like “Conqueror”, ten tracks in. Halfway through the album, on the track “Time Rolls a Hill”, glitchy electronics fall headlong into a driving, acoustic, Native American-influenced passage, and we are left to wonder what happened to our happy-to-be-small songsmith. The hope is that perhaps Snowbeast can be a transitional album, allowing Temple to adjust to the freedom that a larger production budget can bring; for now, however, he just doesn’t quite fit into his new outfit.
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