Here we go again. Halfway through the slush pile, tossing ’em aside like pancakes at a Little League fundraiser, and allofasudden whoooaaa Nellie. Hang on, we got us a keeper.
Peter Bloom is a singer-songwriter who learned all the right lessons from John, George, Ringo and especially Paul – not to mention Elton John and John (Five For Fighting) Ondrasik. This is simply gorgeous piano/orchestral-based pop, carried to the next level by Bloom’s insightful lyrics and full-bodied melodic sensibilities.
“Let It Go” is a knockout opener, a mid-tempo plea for resolution whose jangly guitar, thrumming organ and keening string accents help Bloom build to a soaring, affecting climax that sums up everything a good ballad should be.
The orchestral flourishes that open and color the fringes of “Walls” could have been lifted from Revolver, but weren’t; these are original confections using familiar musical parts, every bit as refreshing-yet-familiar as anything fellow Beatlemaniacs like the Redwalls or Fastball have produced.
Not that everything here is that derivative; “Careful” has more of an alt-rock sound, with a stronger guitar line and vocals that remind a bit of Mr. retro-alt-brilliance himself, Brendan Benson. “Afraid” mixes love and politics cleverly, reminding that decisions made from fear are rarely good ones. And “Haven’t Hit The Floor Yet” ditches the piano for acoustic guitar and strings as Bloom plumbs and conquers the depths of despair.
Every song on this disc is solid and smartly crafted, multi-part harmonies (all sung by Bloom) meshing beautifully with appealing arrangements. Further highlights along the way include the rousing gospel-blues thumper “Helping Hand,” the rather Queen-flavored ballad “Please,” and the magnificent, sing-along-inspiring “A Little More Love,” in which Bloom twists Bono lyrics into new shapes (“our hearts bleed as one”) while channeling McCartney’s vocals from “Hey Jude.”
The punchline here comes in the form of Bloom’s one-sheet, which narrates musical tribulations of Dickensian proportions. Starting out in the 90s as the singer/drummer for Montreal alt-rock band The Elementals, Bloom hung in through that group’s metamorphosis into the more traditionalist (and more successful) rock band Furious Styles, even as he battled serious health issues. What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to a singer? Bloom developed a chronic voice disorder (muscle tension dysphoria, or MTD) which prevented him from singing for any significant length of time. As his condition worsened, Bloom sank into a severe depression, eventually losing almost all the hair on his head, face and body.
After a move to Toronto and a career change to radio and voice-over work, Bloom eventually found a voice therapist who was able to help him recover his voice, and with it, his confidence. It’s a tale that might lead you to anticipate overwrought, over-precious and/or oversold music when you put this disc in, but none of those adjectives apply. Bloom has his feet planted firmly on the ground and the only tool he needs to impress here is pure musical talent, gloriously unleashed at last.
Random Thoughts (from a paralyzed mind) is a winning combination of classic pop-rock craftsmanship and genuine, heartfelt performance. Highly recommended.
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