Grant Lee Phillips is a singer whose work seems so natural and effortless you can almost miss just how good he really is. Phillips' tone is rich and satisfying, but he also has a keen sense of how to meld his voice with his accompanists, and though the dreamy folk-rock of his best-known material is as comfy as an easy chair, the craft is solid and precise, and there's enough intelligence and diversity in his arrangements to indicate he isn't sleepwalking. 2007's Strangelet is a more ambitious album than the three releases that preceded it -- unlike the covers set Nineteeneighties, Phillips wrote all the material, and the production aims for a fuller sound than the often spare approach of Mobilize and Virginia Creeper. While the results follow the melodic template that Phillips has made his own since his work with Grant Lee Buffalo, listening to Strangelet confirms the man sounds as good as ever and remains plenty imaginative, from the poignant ukulele-strum of "Fountain of Youth" and the gentle but determined rock of "Soft Asylum (No Way Out)" to "Rise The Spirit" and "Johnny Guitar," in which Phillips conjured up his inner Marc Bolan and brings forth an effective variation on the classic T. Rex sound, and "Return to Love," which recalls the melodic beauty of John Lennon's solo work. The core of this album is built around a tight and modest rhythm section, but the string and horn arrangements which adorn several tracks add a welcome luster to the melodies which dovetail beautifully with Phillips' voice. Since Grant Lee Buffalo broke up in 1999, Phillips has quietly been establishing himself as a singer and songwriter of the first caliber, and Strangelet is lovely stuff that shows he's still reaching the top of his game (all the more impressive given that this followed Nineteeneighties by a mere nine months).
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming