Audio Mixers: Benjamin Balcom; Erik Hall.
Recording information: Chicago, IL (2011-2014); Northport, MI (2011-2014).
Following In Tall Buildings' 2010 debut with another solitary recording regimen (this time split between his Chicago home studio and a Michigan farmhouse), on 2015's Driver Erik Hall creates another engaging, melancholic atmosphere. The album's subtly more fleshed-out arrangements -- there are a half dozen to a dozen instruments on most tracks -- layer delicate percussion, guitars, keyboards, and judiciously placed effects. The impact doesn't deviate far from the first record, retaining the project's intimacy, composure, and guitar-and-keyboard-centered sound. Many of the songs achieve motion via stacked rhythms, compelling textures, and melody more so than by chord progressions and form. "All You Pine," for instance, has the vocal melody, bass, and drums all riding syncopated rhythms to create the song's movement on top of anchored keyboards and limited chords. Songs like "Unmistakable" and "When You See Me Fall" show off his pop sensibilities with more active progressions and rhythm section, if still restrained, while "I'll Be Up Soon," with its pillow fight of soft, rubber-banding guitar delays, adds a wave of psychedelia to the bedroom-studio sound. Driver also includes two guitar instrumentals, "Cedarspeak" and "Aloft," the most ambient tracks on the album. This variety prevents the mellowness from stagnating. Hall's vocals, in the context of these songs, are reminiscent of Lindsey Buckingham or Elliott Smith: gentle and blending, in this case delivering misty lyrics that help keep sharp focus at bay, at most setting a mood or an impressionistic scene. Driver feels composed more than written, not in a way that elevates or alienates, but rather one that draws the ear to each presence in a landscape that shifts, unfolds, and surrounds; a quietly intense ride and mix recommended for headphone listening. ~ Marcy Donelson