Joshua Radin moved toward a more electric rock sound on 2010's The Rock and the Tide, but on 2012's Underwater he returns to the hushed and sincere singer/songwriter pop that filled his first two albums. A melodic, countrified album buoyed by some light orchestral touches, Underwater largely showcases Radin's vocals set against gently strummed acoustic guitar. However, it also doesn't hurt that Radin brought in a supergroup of backing musicians for this effort, including pianist Benmont Tench (Tom Petty), drummer Jim Keltner (Bob Dylan), organist Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. (Jellyfish), and others. While Radin has a slight voice that he keeps at something just above a whisper much of the time, his vocal lines are still bright and pleasant. Tracks like the rambling "Let It Go" and the intimate "Five and Dime" are infectious nuggets of heartfelt and twangy folk-pop that stick in your head. Tracks like the leadoff "Tomorrow Is Gonna Be Better" and "Anywhere Your Love Goes," with their sweeping, cinematic string flourishes, have a '60s baroque vibe, and bring to mind the work of such artists as Sea Change-era Beck and earlier icons like Nick Drake. Elsewhere, we get a bevy of catchy, laid-back anthems that find Radin delving into a womb-like, late-afternoon space of melancholy emotions and sun-drenched ennui. While Radin may lean toward a kind of a sadness on Underwater, there is a current of positivity running through his work here that permeates most tracks. On "Let It Go," he croons "Put the top down drive to the sea/Leave the city lights behind me/Let it go/Feel the sun shine on my face/Took some time but I found my place by letting go." If you let yourself go and let Radin's songs wash over you, Underwater will most likely carry you out to sea with a smile on your face.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar