Discounting the soundtrack to his 2016 Aladdin film and a 2013 LP of duets with singer Binki Shapiro, Engine of Paradise arrives as Adam Green's first proper solo release since the relatively low-key Minor Love back in 2010. While the former Moldy Peach has since stretched out as an experimental filmmaker, visual artist, and poet in the ensuing years, his musical mode remains relatively unchanged since he reinvented himself in the early years of the millennium. His quick transition from jokey, lo-fi, anti-folk bard to slightly less jokey, retro-pop crooner came about in 2003, lodging him rather firmly in a stylistic comfort zone which he has populated from album to album with the distinctive lyrical oddities, offbeat humor, and an unkempt baritone that constitute his bailiwick. Such is the case with Engine of Paradise, a relatively brief, generally enjoyable set of string-adorned, '60s-centric indie pop cuts which coincide thematically with his concurrently released graphic novel, War and Paradise. A detached sense of loneliness pervades many of these songs, even as their breezy arrangements sparkle warmly in the fringes. Standouts like "Freeze My Love" and "Rather Have No Thing" are concerned with the emotional disconnections between the self, lovers, and society at large. Green's semi-deadpan delivery and witty front often bely the real pain lurking within his lyrics, though the lush arrangements help tell a different tale. Familiar in style and approach, Engine of Paradise offers a sturdy distillation of Green's worldview, albeit a slightly darker one.
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger