Peter Himmelman’s fans will not be surprised that the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has come up with yet another solo album. The definition of a Renaissance Man, Himmelman’s career has seen him take on the guise of a Grammy-nominated children’s entertainer, an author and film/TV score composer, among others. There Is No Calamity shows that Himmelman has no plans to slow down either, as the singer-songwriter has come up with yet another thought-provoking creative work.
Throughout the record, Himmelman is unapologetically committed to exploring social issues. His lyrics are often rhetorical, and purposeful, though refreshingly, never preachy. With this commitment, however, sometimes comes a lack of attention to hooks and general energy, as Himmelman’s musical choices can become generic on occasion. “Memories in This Heart of Mine” and “Smoke and Flames” are some of the guilty parties here, as Himmelman’s writing is often not daring enough to be compelling, nor virtuosic enough to reinvent what we already know.
The good far outweighs the bad, however. Himmelman is at his most powerful when his charismatic baritone voice (often reminiscent of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, especially when Himmelman writes bluesier vocal melodies) is paired with funk-inspired instrumental choices. The opening “245th Peace Song” is an example here, whose flirtatious drum and guitar work are reminiscent of mid-career Red Hot Chilli Peppers (i.e. when they were good). This track strikes that 2000s pop-rock balance between relaxed and sophisticatedly boisterous. The gospel-inflected “Ropes or Wings” and album highlight “Fear Is Our Undoing” also fit the bill, as Himmelman summons the passion of a great rock album to engage the listener.
Creative chameleon Peter Himmelman’s There Is No Calamity may not be the perfect record, but when he’s able to harness both the brooding and desperate qualities of his vocal style and match it to his instrumental choices, it’s incredibly enjoyable listening.