Since the demise of the Grapes of Wrath in 2001, co-leader Kevin Kane has kept a low musical profile, releasing only a solo acoustic album, Timmy Loved Judas Priest, that consisted entirely of covers. His third solo release overall, How to Build a Lighthouse is Kane's first full-band album under his own name, with his own guitar and keyboards backed with bass, drums, and cello. The low-key arrangements keep Kane's vocals front and center, and he's in fine voice throughout: his wispy, breathy tenor has remained largely unchanged since the Grapes of Wrath's chart heyday. As a result, the overdubbed self-harmonies on the excellent opening track, "Last to Know," are sure to appeal to that breed of pop fans whose mental radios are permanently tunes to the 1970s AM band. Other highlights include the sparse, ghostly "Late Night," which has more of a Big Star Third/Sister Lovers vibe, and the closest thing to a rocker on this low-key album, the New Pornographers-like power pop of "No Black Dots." The oddly glammy, Redd Kross-style cover of Pink Floyd's "Arnold Layne" is good for a laugh as well, though it's strange that in three different places, the liner notes claim that "See Emily Play" is the song in question. Especially in the United States, where the Grapes of Wrath never broke beyond the college radio ghetto, it's easy for an album like How to Build a Lighthouse to disappear without a trace, but this is an enjoyable singer/songwriter album with a lot of subtle but effective pop hooks.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason