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We Were Here

Joshua Radin

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Album Review

Oh quick, before it goes away, let's look at another example that shows the interconnectedness (dare we say incest?) of television and popular music: Joshua Radin, who would have never even pursued a songwriting career if it hadn't been for his friendship with Zach Braff, star of Scrubs and introducer of the Shins to the masses. Braff put Radin's song "Winter" on the show, a move that eventually led to a recording contract with Columbia and his debut, We Were Here, much to the excitement of thousands of female fans. Radin plays the role of the quiet, romantic, sensitive guy, obsessed with his own heart and that which surrounds it, and does it all pretty convincingly. His songs are intimate, vaguely postmodern (his frequent references to the entity of a song within the song itself) affairs about love, addressing an unnamed woman and contemplating the state of their relationship over quietly picked acoustic guitars and the occasional bowed accent. His voice is soft and airy, timid and gentle to the point of fragility (it is extremely hard to believe when he sings "I scream that I wanna be anyone but me" in "Amy's Song" that he's not being hyperbolic), and layered as if he were a kind of sickly, half-rate Elliott Smith. The late singer is definitely a huge influence for Radin (he's even thanked in the liner notes), but while Smith was able convey emotion not just through his words but through his voice, Radin is so expressionless (besides the occasional breathy sigh), or at least monotonous in his expression, that even the happier pieces still sound as if they're being sung upon his deathbed. And while he does have some good lines ("There's a hole in my pocket that's about her size," "I keep your picture in my worn-through shoes"), many of his rhymes seem a little forced, almost corny ("Photographs and brightly colored paper/Are your masks you wear in this caper," he whispers in "Closer"), which greatly takes away from the profundity he's apparently trying to reach. Add this to the fact that the songs all have a very similar, redundant quality to them and suddenly We Were Here doesn't distinguish itself much from any other semi-talented male singer/songwriter. Except this one is a friend of Zach Braff's, which has clearly made all the difference.

Biography

Born: 14 June 1974 in Shaker Heights, OH

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Though Joshua Radin enjoyed singing during his childhood, the Cleveland native never intended to be a professional musician. Instead, he studied drawing and painting at Northwestern University, following his college years with stints as an art teacher, screenwriter, and art gallery employee. Eventually, Radin took a stab at songwriting and played one of his earliest compositions, "Winter," for his friend Zach Braff. The burgeoning actor/director took an immediate liking to the song, and "Winter"...
Full bio
We Were Here, Joshua Radin
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