With the dreamy, brooding quality to songs like "Mote," "Hey Joni," and "Wish Fulfillment," Lee Ranaldo could be seen as the George Harrison of Sonic Youth, offering a more lyrical contrast to the blunter and more abstract approaches of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. On his solo album Between the Times and the Tides, he expands on those qualities in his music and reveals new ones, inviting friends including Alan Licht, Steve Shelley, Jim O'Rourke, and Nels Cline along to help. Some of these songs could have been fine additions to a Sonic Youth album, particularly "Xtina as I Knew Her" which, with its expansive swath and dark, dissonant solos swirling around the plainspoken clarity of his vocals, comes the closest to Ranaldo's work with the band. Meanwhile, his unabashed romanticism continues with "Stranded," where he sighs over pedal steel, "I long for your lips" -- something that Kim Gordon or Thurston Moore probably wouldn't pull off or even attempt. Like any good solo album, this one shows off Ranaldo's different aspects, but he arguably goes even farther afield of his prescribed role in Sonic Youth than his bandmates do in many of their extracurricular projects. Between the Times and the Tides displays a strong and surprising classic rock streak: "Waiting on a Dream" begins the album with a darkly trippy raga complete with backward guitars and tablas that evokes the Stones' "Paint it Black," while "Tomorrow Never Comes"' tumbling rhythm and eloquent solos feel akin to the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." Ranaldo gets downright hippie-ish, in a good way, on the psychedelic "Angles" and "Shouts," which pairs violent words with a hypnotic melody and a spoken word description of a riot that feels like '60s, '90s, and 2010s protests layered atop each other. Between the Times and the Tides also reveals that he can write a straightforward pop song just as well, if not better, than songwriters who aren't from his avant/experimental background. "Off the Wall" is one such gorgeous standout, with carefully crafted lyrics that don't detract from its endearing melody; "Lost" is another, and another example of the poetic empathy that sets his songwriting apart. Ranaldo ventures even farther on the folksy "Hammer Blows" and "Fire Island (Phases)" a suite of psych-rock, country-rock, and swooning soft rock miniatures, and sounds just as comfortable on both tracks as he does on the album's more expected territory. Though a question mark hung over Sonic Youth's future at the the time of its release, Between the Times and the Tides cements Ranaldo's role as a dreamer and poet who can remain true to himself and reveal new things at the same time.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares