[3 September 2008]
To dispense with the obvious point straight away: Luke Reynolds sounds exactly like Chris Martin. There are certainly worse problems to have as a singer, but in a musical landscape where Coldplay’s atmospheric saturation is at about 100 percent, Reynolds’ vocal doppelganger haunts Reynolds’ recordings like a specter. It’s impossible to listen to Blue Merle, Reynolds’ previous band, or his new recordings as Pictures and Sound, without making mental comparisons to our current King of Rousing Choruses. It’s Reynolds’ bad luck that the singing voice he was born with distracts all of his listeners from the way the rest of his music sounds.
Unfortunately, even beyond the vocal performance, Reynolds’ new project as Pictures and Sound gives little reason to dispense with the Coldplay comparisons. Blue Merle combined two contemporary musical clichés—Coldplay’s eager, ardent emotional climbs with the Dave Matthews Band’s acoustic string arrangements and jazzy flourishes—and made a record that came close to dodging the traps of those bromides. When Blue Merle dissolved, Reynolds left behind the band’s mandolin and fiddle instrumentation and subbed them out with his own vibes and pedal steel and glockenspiel. In doing so, he filled his album with the undulating atmospherics and ringing guitars that sound familiar to every American with a pair of ears. Pictures and Sound is a frustrating album, because Reynolds clearly has a strong handle on tune and melody and can write a good hook. But dealt the hand of an overly familiar singing voice, Reynolds would be well served to find a musical voice that his audience is less accustomed to hearing.