Bobby Sutliff

On a Ladder

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While his output hardly suggests that Bobby Sutliff has fully returned to active duty as a musician, the fact that On a Ladder is the fourth album of the 21st century from the former Windbreakers' guitarist at least confirms he's taking his hobby more seriously lately, and while On a Ladder lacks the bite of the best Windbreakers records (that side was doubtless Tim Lee's department), he still has a lovely way with a melody, and his guitar work is truly splendid. While the bulk of On a Ladder was recorded at Sutliff's home studio, Chris Stamey did some additional recording and mixing at his Modern Recording studio as well as throwing in a few guitar parts of his own, and Sutliff responds well to having a like-minded foil to work with. The sound of On a Ladder is richer and fuller than its immediate predecessor, 2003's Perfect Dream, and the production and arrangements are better detailed than the bulk of Sutliff's recent solo work. Lyrically, Sutliff is still spinning tales about unattainable girls and love gone wrong (his favorite themes), but the tunes are timeless jangle pop that show Sutliff's not lost a bit of his touch, and the guitar workouts are manna from heaven for fans of his work with the Windbreakers (and "Lonely Beach" from the group's Disciples of Agriculture EP, gets a new recording as the album's finale). These days, Sutliff seems to be recording what he wants when he feels like it, and On a Ladder doesn't break much new ground, but it also confirms the man hasn't lost his master's touch for lush, smart pop, and his music remains a true pleasure to hear.

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