Gregory Uhlmann
Photo: Alexa Viscius / Clandestine Label Services

Gregory Uhlmann’s ‘Again and Again’ Is Quirky, Sophisticated Pop

Again and Again sees Gregory Uhlmann in a constant state of growth and maturity, finding ways to put it all into a coherent, beautiful artistic statement.

Again and Again
Gregory Uhlmann
Northern Spy
28 April 2023

On his Bandcamp page, Gregory Uhlmann is described as an artist “with an inclination towards mixing the prickly and the beautiful”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Uhlmann’s music is fully immersed in pop music of the indie variety and that of classic songwriters, but it always seems to occupy a tense edge, as if he’s not interested in being entirely conventional. With his latest solo album, Again and Again, plenty of great hooks and melodies can be found, as long as you don’t mind a healthy dose of charming oddness. 

The Los Angeles-based Uhlmann is a busy musician who has performed with artists such as Perfume Genius and Hand Habits, collaborated with Tasha, Miya Folick, and Nate Mercereau, and is a member of the jazz trio Typical Sisters as well as the art-rock outfit Fell Runner. But while that’s just the tip of the iceberg, it already conveys the idea of a busy musical mind encompassing a variety of musical styles. Uhlmann’s solo work – on Again and Again, as on previous solo albums like Neighborhood Watch and Odd Job – seems to be where he feeds his pop music jones, albeit one infused with a variety of sub-genres and a deeply felt sense of sophistication. 

The gentle, syncopated blips and bloops that open Again and Again in the first track (and first single), “Homecoming”, set the scene, as Uhlmann begins with a strangely beautiful couplet: “Fist full of paper clips floating out into space / Trace a line around my hand and draw a funny face.” Written about a Tinder encounter in Chicago, the song documents moments seemingly both meaningful and more mundane. “Burned the toast in the morning / Spilled the juice on the counter / Wiped it up without a sound / Then the kettle started whistling loud.” Uhlmann enhances the lyrical minutiae with beautiful arrangements of woodwinds that give this seemingly innocuous concoction a classic pop sheen.

Uhlmann seems to enjoy mixing and matching disparate genres in the span of a single song, the title track serving as a great example. It may seem like a small thing, but Josh Johnson’s brief saxophone squalls that frame the choruses give the song a weird but welcome edge, like Paul McCartney‘s free jazz neighbor coming over to borrow a cup of sugar. But many of Again and Again‘s arrangements are in a more traditional vein, showcasing Uhlmann’s status as a student of timeless pop songcraft – take the weeping strings in “George”, which sound like they tumbled out of a 1977 AM radio or the Big Star-meets-Brian Wilson-leaning melodies in “So Alive”, buttressed by upright piano and gorgeous horns. 

As relatively odd and aloof as these songs tend to be, there’s no shortage of earworms and melodies that will positively burrow into the listener’s head. The loping, mid-tempo “Something” has a low-key vibe that sounds like America joining forces with Elliott Smith. For every offbeat line (“Is something burning / Is that birthday cake / I put the frosting on before I baked it”), there’s one that’s an instantly relatable reflection of everyday life (“One arm outside the car / Driving fast, but we’re not going far”). 

It can’t be overstated how familiar Uhlmann is with a wide range of styles, going from the tweaked gospel of “Save Me” to the unsettling minor-key folk of “Protector” to the winsome, sublime closer “Leo”, which recalls a childhood friendship with fondness and wonder. “Running around with our heads cut off / And screaming until our voices were lost / And I haven’t seen him since we were kids / But I wonder what he’s been doing / Now that we’re older / But we were bold then.” Again and Again sees Gregory Uhlmann as an artist in a constant state of growth and maturity, learning what he can along the way and finding ways to put it all into a coherent, beautiful artistic statement.

RATING 8 / 10