Neilson Hubbard, Sing Into Me

There’s a real risk in unfolding one’s songs as slowly, quietly and deliberately as Neilson Hubbard does on his third solo album Sing Into Me. “Careful” doesn’t begin to describe the type of balancing act that Hubbard pulls off.

With a slight country air and bare instrumentation that puts his voice up close in the mix, Hubbard finds himself in the company of Lambchop, Elliot Smith, the Tindersticks and Royal City. Not as dark as the Tindersticks, as warped as Lambchop or as rocking as Smith, Hubbard rescues himself from anonymity with his sense of melody and his fine voice. If the songs on Sing Into Me unfold at a slow pace, Hubbard has a voice suited to it – just gravelly enough, just smooth enough – and simple memorable melodies to sing.

“Everything’s Starting” – the most upbeat song on the record – gets by without a backbeat and sets Hubbard’s voice in between ringing guitars. Even with its moderate tempo, the song shows off his pop craftsmanship. This is evident also in “You’ll Be There” – a slow song which builds to a lovely chorus where a female voice, piano and cello join Hubbard’s voice and acoustic guitar.

“Ready for You” presents another pop melody slowed down and set to quiet looped drums, guitar and flute. Hubbard’s pop sensibility extends to the songs’ structures and, in fact, the record itself. Slow, quiet songs tend to plod if not kept concise. Hubbard keeps the songs and record tight. With only 9 songs, the record wraps up after only 35 minutes. It is a length that assures that self-indulgence is kept in check.

Sing Into Me isn’t paced for the daylight hours. This is definitely a record for the moonlight. It has moods but isn’t moody. Its quietness and slow, even pace may deter more excitable listeners but Hubbard’s delivery is spot on.

[This piece originally appeared in The Rage.]