Inspired by a recent move to the Isle of Mull, Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble's second solo album, The Impossible Songs & Other Songs, continues his journey into cozy-pipe-and-slippers-middle age on 12 folk-pop tracks which further distance him from his angsty, indie rock beginnings. Indeed, despite the presence of bandmates Rod Jones and Gavin Fox, only the fuzzy electric guitars and thumping beats of the slightly grungy "Old Town" indicate this is the same man responsible for aggressive punk anthems like "When I Argue I See Shapes." The tender "Make Something Out of What It's Worth" matches Woomble's conversational delivery with jazzy piano chords and gentle, brush-stroke rhythms; "Tangled Wire" is a soulful, fingerpicking acoustic ode to Scotland's natural beauty, and "New Frontier" is a Johnny Cash-esque slice of authentic, old-school country. These more reflective moments may allow his poetic storytelling qualities to come to the fore, but with their slightly meandering melodies, they tend to drift into bland singer/songwriter territory just a little too often. The album is much more captivating when it sounds more suited to a jolly Highlands pub than a coffee shop open-mike night, as on the rousing "Work Like You Can," which begins with some gorgeous, ethereal, birdsong-like female vocals before bursting into a Pogues-esque sea shanty chorus; the banjo-plucking, stomping nu-folk of purposeful opener "A New Day Has Begun," and the jaunty swing-jazz of "Roll Along," while the Fleetwood Mac-style soft rock of "Leaving Without Gold" indicates his chart-hitting days might not be as far behind him as he might have thought. Relocating to a sparsely populated island in the Inner Hebrides might not be the most conducive of career moves, but The Impossible Song & Other Songs' natural sense of bonhomie suggests it's a place which should help firmly establish his transition from angry rocker to contented troubadour.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien