Walsh's new record is another impressive shift in his sound, and another great record to his name.
It's been about five years since TW Walsh's last solo record, Songs of Pain and Leisure, and a lot happened in the meantime: long-term illness, a 40th birthday, a busted elbow, and so on. Fruitless Research, though, hardly sounds bogged down or worn out by years of upheaval. Made alongside Yuuki Matthews, the new record veers away from the guitar-centered power-pop of the last record and into fascinating, gauzy pop territory. These songs are tangled up with keys and overdubs, and Walsh's vocals are sometimes coated in soft-focus echo and other times buried in mechanized treatments.
The great trick of the record, though, is that in all these layers it never feels dreamy or drifting. Instead, songs like "Young Rebels" and "Monterrey" crawl their way deep into your ear canal thanks to rumbling rhythm sections. All the sweet melodies and textures get a charge from the heavy boom of a floor tom or the clean snap of a snare. The album uses that meshing of texture and rhythm to shift tempo and mood while maintaining cohesion. So the bittersweet plea of "Body/Mind" locks in perfectly with the melancholic hum of "Fundamental Ground". The album, in short, plays like an album, full of twists and surprises that feel both fresh and inevitable, each song tied to the last but also pushing forward into new territory. All those layers can sometimes obscure some great lyrics ("the truth is god-awful stuff"), but Walsh's new record is another impressive shift in his sound, and another great record to his name.