Hermitage by Ron Sexsmith [7/10]

Ron Sexsmith, bard of the velvety, quasi-falsetto crooning voice, has been on my turntable for a decade and a half, but increasingly I’ve found his songs too minor key and saccharine. His trademark simple, evocative singer-songwriter style hovers between steely, melancholic brilliance and sappy pap, and even though every one of his albums contains at least one of the former, the latter had begun to dominate. Thankfully, “Hermitage,” his sixteenth, arrests that trend, and it’s the strongest Sexsmith since the early noughties. Known as a “songwriter’s songwriter,” Sexsmith ensures that each song is finely calibrated, with only a couple upbeat, the instrumentation mostly piano and strings, real music hall stuff. Channeling The Kinks like crazy, time and time again, the songs burrow into the brain after two or three listens. It’s hard to choose highlights but do listen to the unforgettable lilting melody of “Spring of the Following Year”; “Glow in the Dark Stars,” one of his most sublime songs ever, with earworm chorus and melody; and the short, piano-led, world weary “Whatever Shape Your Heart Is In.”

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