13 Songs, 38 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Over the years Sam Phillips has slowly but surely been folding her music into smaller and smaller pieces. Even when she adds dissonant touches on her first self-produced album (after eight with T-Bone Burnett), it’s with a sense of "compact." Nothing sprawls. Electric guitars buzz and hum but they do not reverberate. Her touring band plays quietly and deliberately. And her songs are kept lyrically spare, filled with private references, quick literal judgments and elliptical symbolism where everything comes back around. While it’s tempting to read her lovelorn treatises, such as the opening track “No Explanations,” as her reaction to her divorce from producer / musician T Bone Burnett (he’s thanked in the album’s liner notes), with Phillips it’s only part of a universal journey. She comments on the modern world (“Little Plastic Life”), her own inspirations (“Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” also covered by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and the realization of one’s dreams (“Flowers Up”) with a minimalism that’s spare and haunting. But it’s a claustrophobic box made more so by Phillips’ craggly delivery, where every breath is labored by the need to set things askew.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Over the years Sam Phillips has slowly but surely been folding her music into smaller and smaller pieces. Even when she adds dissonant touches on her first self-produced album (after eight with T-Bone Burnett), it’s with a sense of "compact." Nothing sprawls. Electric guitars buzz and hum but they do not reverberate. Her touring band plays quietly and deliberately. And her songs are kept lyrically spare, filled with private references, quick literal judgments and elliptical symbolism where everything comes back around. While it’s tempting to read her lovelorn treatises, such as the opening track “No Explanations,” as her reaction to her divorce from producer / musician T Bone Burnett (he’s thanked in the album’s liner notes), with Phillips it’s only part of a universal journey. She comments on the modern world (“Little Plastic Life”), her own inspirations (“Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” also covered by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and the realization of one’s dreams (“Flowers Up”) with a minimalism that’s spare and haunting. But it’s a claustrophobic box made more so by Phillips’ craggly delivery, where every breath is labored by the need to set things askew.

TITLE TIME
13

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