The Indie-Music — Still Night

by Jennifer Layton March 2004

 

"Phillips loves his many influences and knows how to blend them without suffering from multiple musical personality disorder."

By Jennifer Layton

If Zach Phillips has really experienced all the heartache offered on this 12-track offering, I urge his family and friends to remove all sharp objects from his home and put the suicide hotline on speed dial. Lyrics like "Why don't we just make a joke of love, 'cause the love we had, it made a joke out of us," would have most guys seriously considering the priesthood.

But most guys don't have this kind of musical talent. Yes, Phillips does seem to have problems with the whole relationship thing, but he has no problem singing about it. That voice struck me right away. It's a rich, warm, bluesy voice that reminds me a bit of Randy Newman. Mix that with music that sounds like Bob Dylan and Neil Young playing together in a coffee shop, and you've got Still Night, an excellent, if rather melancholy, effort that belongs on the radio.

Until he hits the big time, there are still a few rough edges to smooth out. After the first track, "Cry Like I Do," absolutely floored me with its high energy and infectious sound, I spent the next several songs trying to find those qualities again. There's nothing wrong with sad heartbreak ballads, especially when they're as well written as "Farewell, So Long" and "Some Faith." (The latter has a sweetly sad way of expressing heartache: "I could hold out another day and hope that will make it okay, but I've lost some faith in you.") But one broken heart after the other tends to send the listener straight to the liquor cabinet.

I found a quieter version of what I was looking for in Track 7. "Forever — Ever" is a beautiful, minor-key musical arrangement that feels like a full moon in the midnight sky. It's a whisper of the here and now, cherishing a sacred present moment. Everything around me disappeared when I listened to it.

Phillips returns to full power on "I've Lost My Heart," in which he sounds more gutsy and spontaneous in his vocal delivery. On this track, I can hear how much fun he's having. And after one more delicate ballad ("Dream Song"), he can't resist closing on an upbeat note with the jaunty, pure country rock love song "Brightest Star." He's not ready for the Zoloft just yet.

Phillips is a solid, gifted singer and songwriter. He also loves his many influences and knows how to blend them without suffering from multiple musical personality disorder. Now if we can just get the boy into couples counseling...