Landline, Greg Laswell's 2012 follow-up to the celebrated Take a Bow, may sound less tortured, but there's plenty of pathos to go around. Recorded in a small church-turned-house that belongs to his in-laws, Laswell couches his songwriting in what he perceives to be adventurous production. He listened to many hip-hop records before he cut Landline, and the sound of its drums, loops, and synthetic percussion obviously enchanted him. But this is nothing like a hip-hop record. The album's first single is its opening cut, "Come Back Down," a duet with Sarah Bareilles. Its crunchy tom-toms, repetitive piano riff, and his monotone vocals introduce it. Bareilles complements and elevates them by injecting something that approximates honest emotion with her friendly style. The most compelling thing about the track is its lyric content, which may disguise itself as an admonition, but is instead a thinly veiled indictment of a subject who's hurt the protagonist. It comes to a big, nearly cinematic climax, letting the listener know that Landline is a "big" record. There are three other collaborations with female vocalists, including "Back To You" (Elizabeth Ziman of Elizabeth and the Catapult), the jaunty, "Dragging You Around" (Sia), and the closing title track with his wife, singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelson.
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