A lot of people have been saying some very nice things about young singer/song writer Seth Glier, and if his latest CD, The Next Right Thing, is any indication—all these accolades? He’s got them coming. This is a young man with a distinctive voice, a falsetto that sticks to your ribs, and can he write songs. His music is melodically rich. His lyrics are as complex and suggestive as the best of the poets. He has an eye for the crucial detail that will grow in your imagination; he has an ear for phrase that will make it blossom. In a disc that features thirteen tracks, two of which are short string instrumentals, there isn’t a clunker in the bunch.
Arrangements tend to be clean and spare. He likes to begin softly with a lone piano or a guitar accompaniment and a plaintive vocal. Sometimes a song will keep that tone throughout the whole; sometimes it will build to a dramatic crescendo as the vocal gets caught up in the passion of the moment. “Beauty in the Breakdown” begins with a throbbing piano and a vocal that grows in passion and orchestration with the seemingly contraindicated truth that there can be beauty in the irrational. There can be “heaven when everything’s falling.” “Book of Matches” starts with a soft vocal and sweet guitar that turns into a horrific story about what appears to be an actual fire which then becomes a metaphor for even larger horrors. Turns out “we are all a book of matches waiting to be turned.” “I Don’t Need You,” a track that features Edwin McCain, has a lilting guitar and tinkling beat that seems almost like a lullaby until it turns out that what is not needed is drugs or at least something just as bad for which drugs can stand as something of a metaphor.
In “I Don’t Need You” (and a number of the other songs on the CD) Glier creates a character to speak the speech. In the words of another poet long gone he “speaks in so many voices not my own.” There is the speaker in “Beauty in the Breakdown” whose breakdown, I would suspect is not necessarily to be attributed to the artist. “No Place to Land,” a song that reminds me of Jackson Browne (I keep waiting for someone to break out into “Stay”), which deals with the failure to juggle career and relationships need not be taken as autobiography. Indeed that voice seems significantly different from the plaintive philosopher of “Soul, Skin and Bones” who finds in his love a “perfect palindrome” or the passionate youth of “Walk Katie Home” who would drive a hundred miles to walk her home. “Lauralee,” an anthem about lost love which channels both Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen, is a tune with real pop hit potential. It’s the kind of song you’ll be playing over and over on your iPod.
While there are these interesting takes on the typical love and love lost song, Glier has some other fish in the fryer. Besides “Book of Matches” and “I Don’t Need You,” “Down With the Ship” is a song that deals with the conflict between faith and loss of faith, belief, and action. “Who’s going to believe in you,” the song asks, if you don’t act on your beliefs. “First” seems to suggest that the more things change, the more they stay the same: “Everything I see seems like the first time.” “The Next Right Thing,” the album’s title song which musically is like nothing else in the collection, is a discordant rhythmic testimony to the need to do “the next right thing” accompanied by a drum and tambourine. “What the Others Have Done” takes a darkly realistic look at the morning after what seems like a one night stand from the point of view of a woman who has been burned by lovers before.
Like I said, a lot of people have been saying really nice things about Seth Glier; I guess I’m just another one of them.