Now that he has his own studio and label, Joseph Arthur must feel a lot of freedom when it comes to recording material, and this newfound liberation is most certainly evidenced on Let's Just Be, his second release on Lonely Astronaut. The album has the feel of an improvisational session, as if Arthur called up his band late one night, asked them to bring their instruments, showed them the sketches of 16 songs he'd been working on, and then told them to play (the occasional spoken direction of "then we go into a verse" only helps this theory along). Arthur is a talented writer, but there's an air of sloppy experimentation, of demos and B-sides and other things that probably won't interest more than the heartiest fan. There are some worthwhile tracks here -- the sad and lovely "Take Me Home," the poetic "Chicago" -- but unfortunately, these are few and far between the Mick Jagger-esque falsetto screeching, the cocky '70s-rock guitars, the repetitive lines of songs like "Shake It Off," "Diamond Ring," or "Let's Just Be." Arthur spends more of his time meandering around different riffs and rhymes (like in "Lonely Astronaut," which clocks in at 20 minutes, at least a quarter of which is an acoustic guitar layered with emerging and disappearing instruments, the word "I" sung continuously on the fourth beat). Unlike another prolific writer, Ryan Adams, who limits the accessibility of his wanderings to his website, Arthur is packaging his as a legitimate album. This may be creatively beneficial for him, and it may be a necessary part of his composition process, but for those not involved, it's less enlightening and interesting.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown