Philip Selway is the drummer from Radiohead, but that information does little to prepare you for the sensitive, gentle songs of broken love and redemption that populate his second solo album, Weatherhouse. Even his first album, the more folk inclined Familial, won’t set you up for the lush textures and seductive melodies he conjures. Weatherhouse draws on gentle psychedelic sounds redolent of The Zombies and The Moody Blues, tempered with the artful rhythmic turns and electronic textures that mark Radiohead’s’ music.
A weatherhouse is a toy house a little like a cuckoo clock that acts as a hygrometer of changes in weather. And judging from the lyrics of Selway’s album, the weather has been unsettled. This is music of loss, affirmation and reflection couched in the sound of reverie and introspection. The opening track, “Coming Up for Air,” is centered on an ominous staccato electronic shudder. Selway sings about emerging from a dark place, but even though he talks of “still standing” and “coming up for air” his voice remains submerged in distant reverb.
That’s how most of Weatherhouse progresses as Selway talks about the tension of a longtime relationship falling apart on “Around Again.” but one to which he keeps returning. It ends with a solo processed voice singing ah-ah-ah, that’s right out of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman.” Although Selway denies a link, the two songs share a theme of modern disconnection. Selway sings this Deja vu lament over driving layered rhythms with a chorus that soars on mellotron strings and vocal harmonies that recall The Moody Blues.
Regrets from the past return like wraiths on “Ghost,” but Selway makes it all seem okay, with lush arrangements and a voice that sounds more soothing than anguished. Weatherhouse was made in collaboration with a couple of other multi-instrumentalists, Adem Ilhan and Quinta who had previously performed in Philip’s backing band, and they add earthy, shaded textures for strings, keyboards, guitars and percussion.
Even a simple piano ballad like “It Will End In Tears,” rises beyond that description with vaguely discordant ambient guitars distorting the background. “Don’t Go Now”, (Song for Kadian) is partly inspired by a young gifted child, Kadian Harding, who died in an accident and now is something of a cause celeb with a website and book just published by his father. It’s a yearning pastoral song that could’ve been on a Donovan album circa Sunshine Superman.
Like the Zombies Odessey and Oracle (still misspelled after all these years), Philip Selway’s Weatherhouse is a perfect slice of English pastoral pop, but without even a single clunker in it like Odessey and Oracle‘s “Friends of Mine.” It joins Beck’s masterful Morning Phase as an album that draws from psychedelic and late sixties folk tradition, but in a thoroughly modern way. Weatherhouse is an album you’ll have on repeat for a while.