Brendan Gamble

Heartless Moon

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Unlike his old bands, the hard pop Poster Children or the dreamy the Moon Seven Times, Brendan Gamble's solo debut is a good old-fashioned piece of '70s-style singer/songwriter mopery, closer in mood to Joni Mitchell's Blue than Nick Drake's Pink Moon, though sharing similarities with both. All 13 of these songs were written during the breakup of Gamble's marriage to his former partner in the Moon Seven Times, Lynn Canfield, and lyrically, they're exactly the mixture of recrimination, resignation, sadness, black humor, and anger that usually accompanies the breakup of a relationship. (Not since Til Tuesday's Everything's Different Now has a full album examined a failed relationship so obsessively without sounding mawkish or self-pitying.) The production, by Trina Shoemaker (Kristin Hersh, Victoria Williams), is stripped down without being barebones minimalism; Gamble's acoustic guitar and fragile voice are at the center of the songs, but Gamble and Shoemaker add just enough extra instrumentation (bass, keyboards, lap steel, occasional drums, and on the memorable title track, a gorgeous cornet solo) to keep the songs from sounding too much alike. Pretty though most of it is, Heartless Moon isn't always an easy listen, but fans of sensitive-guy pop, from James Taylor and Jackson Browne to Josh Rouse and Red House Painters, will love it.

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