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Winter Pays for Summer

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Album Review

Ex-Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman Glen Phillips has always sounded wiser than his years — he was 14 when he joined the band — so it's no surprise that his second full-length collection of solo material is as elegant as it is weighty. With a cast of characters that would appear in boldface if there were a pop underground wall of fame (ex-Jellyfish frontman Andy Sturmer, Ben Folds, Kristin Mooney, Jon Brion, Switchfoot's Jon Foreman and Semisonic/Trip Shakespeare scribe Dan Wilson), Phillips has made a bid for commercial success — each track is poised for prime-time programming — that's as strategically planned as it is lovingly crafted. On the lush opener, "Duck and Cover," he pays homage to Sprocket's ambitious folk-rock, utilizing the kind of winsome lyric ("Seems like life is a palindrome/Cry when you die/Cry when you're born") and dramatic melodic structure that made "Walk on the Ocean" such a genre-skipping hit. While Phillips is unabashedly introspective, he's not above being happy about it — the first single "Thankful," is layered with staccato Phillips/Sturmer backing vocals and enough power pop key shifts to rival an A.C. Newman song — but there is a river of melancholy flowing beneath Winter Pays for Summer that winds through even its most upbeat offerings. Of the three songs co-written with Dan Wilson, only the mesmerizing "Cleareyed" jumps out of the speakers upon first listen, while the other two tread such familiar ground for both artists that the end product seems to have required little or no effort. Vocally, Phillips has matured into — especially when he gets riled up — a quiet storm that dutifully blends Cat Stevens' confident huskiness and Jackson Browne's weary but warm observer of all things broken, and it's this aspect that places him, unapologetically, at the forefront of the adult alternative rock scene and heading for a theater or a television set near you.

Customer Reviews

Great for Glen Philips' Hard Core Fans, A Notch Below for Toad's

The 30 second snippets that were given to me by Itunes did not allow me to fully contemplate whether or not I would like this album even though I thoroughly loved almost every Toad The Wet Sprocket song I ever owned. So I decided to take the plunge because I love Glen Philip's voice and thought that I could not go wrong. I was right and wrong. The album itself is ok, but not what I was expecting being a hard core Toad fan. I wish I could have heard all the songs in their entirety before purchasing the whole album, and I might have stuck with the 2-3 that were the clear winners on this album. These are: "Courage" which is a nice upbeat song about finding's one's courage after a relationship, "Cleareyed" which sounds reminiscent of classic Toad, and "True" which recalls a nice relaxing day contemplating one's life. If you stick with these, and you are a hard core Toad The Wet Sprocket fan, then you won't go wrong or be disappointed. If you like a more classic folk/rock sound and love Glen Philips no matter what, then this album is a must have for you. It is mellow, and a nice background track while you are working, or reading or just relaxing with some friends. So overall this is a C+ album with great lyrics but not quite there for anyone looking for a little more upbeat rock type album, but will not disspoint for those trying to capture the mood of a peaceful afternoon in the sun, and hard core fans of Glen Philips.

A step backwards

When Toad the Wet Sprocket called it quits several years ago, the breakup was largely attributed to creative differences between Glen Phillips and Todd Nichols. In the classic Lennon/McCartney vein, Phillips favored darker, more introspective songs, while Nichols pushed for more radio-friendly pop tunes. After several years of silence, Phillips emerged with the broodingly brilliant "Abulum." The album, while well-reviewed, was not a commercial success. You'd invariably find him billed on record store bin labels or tour dates as "Glen Phillips (former lead singer of Toad the Wet Sprocket)." TTWS fans wanted more of the same, and "Abulum" didn't fit the bill. Which is a shame, because in a lot of ways it's better and more nuanced than 75% of the stuff Toad ever produced (blasphemy, I know). Sadly, the same can not be said for "Winter Pays for Summer." Overproduced and painfully up tempo, it's a pretty obvious bid to reclaim all of those former frat boys that stand at the back of Glen's concerts yelling incessantly for "All I Want" and "Walk on the Ocean." This is most disheartening when it comes to songs like "Easier" and "Thankful," which have been in Glen's repertoire for years and suffer mightlily in their conversion to Top 40 wannabes. Meanwhile, the newer material often sounds like Phillips is simply trying to channel other artists: "Falling" = Tom Petty, "Finally Fading" = Hootie, and "Don't Need Anything" is, in fairness, a pretty good tribute to Randy Newman. Some songs ("Cleareyed") are wholly unlistenable. It is quite possible this album will be a huge commercial success. If so, good for Glen. He has every right to it. But if it isn't, might I suggest he return to the more challenging, more honest songwriting he demonstrated on his previous effort and the endless touring that accompanied it.

Winter Pays for Summer moves Glen's music forwards

If you haven't heard of Glen Phillips (or Toad the Wet Sprocket), you're in for a treat. Here's an album by an artist whose songwriting and overall sound are mature and sophisticated without being too clever for his own good. His rock songs rock, but in a pleasant, melodic way, and his quiet songs penetrate deeply. If you're already into Glen (or TTWS), I'd definitely recommend this album. Glen turns up the volume a bit more than in his previous solo work. Check out "Thankful" in particular. And although you probably won't hear it in the 30-second samples, "Duck and Cover" and "Gather" are also good rock tunes. My favorite song on the album is "Easier." The song deals with the sense of unease even when life is good, "waiting for the other boot to fall." It's a great song musically and lyrically, in ways that wouldn't surprise any of Glen's fans. But this album definitely feels like something new rather than something recycled. Highly recommended!


Born: December 29, 1970 in Santa Barbara, CA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Born in Santa Barbara, CA, Glen Phillips served as the frontman and main songwriter for Toad the Wet Sprocket before launching his solo career in 2001. Toad the Wet Sprocket took shape in 1986, when Phillips was only 14 years old, and the band's debut effort, Bread and Circus, earned them a contract with Columbia Records. However, it was the group's third album -- the jangling, orchestral Fear -- that truly broke the group, garnering heavy radio play with the singles "All I Want" and "Walk on the...
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Winter Pays for Summer, Glen Phillips
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