Joseph Arthur is now three-quarters of the way through his summers-long experimental promotional blitz for his soon-to-be-released full-length album Temporary People (previously titled All You Need Is Nothing).
Almost every artist creates a surplus of material that is later whittled down for the final release. For most this aspect of the musical process is the most troublesome and also the most burdensome.
But for the Akron, Ohio native, it turned into a blessing in disguise because instead of eliminating songs he decided to simply release all of them. Which is how Arthur planned four EPs as both an album precursor and an album resolver: “I’ve always liked the EP because it has a looseness to it. I think songs work best off of each other” (press release).
Vagabond Skies follows the previously released Could We Survive and Crazy Rain EPs, and is certainly the calmest and most spiritual of the three. With the earlier two, Arthur mixed tracks to create more varied experiences. But with Skies Arthur smoothes it with the right juxtaposition of songs as if he putting the finishing touches on a six layer fudge cake.
“Slow Me Down” opens as the kind of song Arthur fans are much used to, with its simple yet elegant melodies and its soft yet lust vocalings. The latter description can also apply to Arthur’s usually hypnotizing rhythmic sensibilities, as in the mystical “She Paints Me Gold” and surprisingly in the oppositely bipolar “Second Sight.”
While not all are as serene and non-restrictive as you would expect, Arthur can at least mask his ideas in a pleasant pseudo-ballad, like “Pretty Good Company” (download mp3 here). With lyrics like “Can we at least turn the pleasure into pain,” you hope those slow-dancing couples are too entranced in the music to understand the words.
Arthur closes out Skies with the poignant and touching “It’s Too Late” that reverberates that all-too-familiar guilt of losing someone (“Every time I try to tell you how I feel / It’s too late”). Since “It’s Too Late” is the final song of the series’ third EP, we can all rest easy knowing it doesn’t foreshadow his music career (at least I hope not) and yearn to listen the series finale.