San Diego singer-songwriter Greg Laswell left for rural Maine to record his latest album, and he found some moody depths that make Landline an edgier work.
Oddly, though, in the songs that come from the isolation of recording in an old church turned house, it's Laswell's collaborations with other singers that stand out. Ingrid Michaelson, Sia, Sara Bareilles and Elizabeth Ziman join Laswell, and though it's not an album built specifically for the duets, those songs are by and large the strongest.
The album starts on a high note with "Come Back Down," with a persistent piano melody that yields to a stomping beat and then bursts into a swelling arena-rock chorus. It's the type of ready-made hit that would make Coldplay sound interesting again. Bareilles' airy, angelic vocals perfectly balance Laswell's rough-edged voice.
"Back to You" is a slowly simmering strings-and-piano ballad with Ziman's yearning vocals, while Sia delivers bright, poppy hooks on "Dragging You Around."
"Landline"—the album-closing duet written with his wife, Michaelson, during a power outage—is a gentle ballad that uses the metaphor of a storm's destruction to discuss needs and longing: "All I ever needed was a landline / Just in case the power lines go down / All I needed would never be enough for me."
Laswell's piano-based pop rock goes down easy (and onto shows like Grey's Anatomy and One Tree Hill), but with Landline, he brings along a few more flavors.