Love and Other Planets

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Adem's heralded Homesongs was a paean to hearth and homestead, and it succeeded in spades by turning the intensely personal into the universal: home as harbor in an anthropological sense, the glue that binds everyone together at the same time it affords us our most intimate moments. On Love and Other Planets, Adem turns the telescope on its end, equating the far reaches of our universe with the space that exists in the closest of quarters -- between lovers, between friends, between our own perceptions and reality. It's another intriguing angle from which to launch a concept record, though Adem's intimate, stand-alone portraits certainly belie any prog-ish stereotypes -- The Wall this ain't. But Adem does make more liberal use of the cut-and-paste studio aesthetic that defined the post-rock experiments of Fridge (where he played bass), adding more textural dimensions to Love and Other Planets without sacrificing the organic acoustics of Homesongs. It's a more balanced hybrid where the electronic and acoustic meld with seamless beauty, wheezing harmoniums bleeding into textured synths, autoharps, glockenspiel, and clarion-toned acoustic guitars thrown into relief by processed samples. Percussive elements that were Fridge's bread and butter are also more central characters here. Songs like "Launch Yourself" and "You and Moon" swirl and crackle with synth washes and handclap percussion sculpted into rich backbeats. "These Lights Are Meaningful" and "Something's Going to Come" feature drums up front in the mix, adding an uptempo rock feel -- albeit acoustic-based -- to Adem's folkish inclinations. A pair of lonely laments conjuring the vastness of space, "Crashlander" is a "Space Oddity"-like tale rendered in gentle Radiohead ballad style and "Last Transmission from the Lost Mission" is accented with disembodied chimes and melodica floating past like icy space debris. But any suggestions of existential isolation are disarmed by the sonic warmth of the songs and production, and by the genuine humanism in Adem's lyrics. Disc opener "Warning Call," with its luscious fingerpicked patterns and ringing glock, is a plea for environmental sensitivity on a personal and global scale. The solo guitar piece "Spirals" finds Adem's ruminative and rickety voice -- think Richard Hawley in a higher register without the reverb -- contrasting the universe outside with our own inner worlds, where emotions result in "tectonic shifts" of the heart every bit as profound as the stars' splendor. With Love and Other Planets, Adem has made a fitting companion for Homesongs, a record cut from similar thematic cloth but painted with an expanded musical palette. And like Homesongs, this record reveals more with each listen, burrowing its way into your consciousness and becoming a welcome part of your musical DNA.

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