I Can Hear the Windows of Your Breaking Heart (Zakz)
By Michael Berick | August 1, 2004 | 12:00am
MUSIC | REVIEWS
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Joe Rathbone projects a tempered hopefulness in his songs. In the opening tune, “Learning to Fly,” he establishes the album’s low-key, gently self-deprecating mood, intoning, “I’ve been waiting for you / You’ve been waiting for me / Let’s go for a walk / Forget about terrible things.” There’s something simple and eminently real about understated sentiments such as these. Echoes of Tom Petty, Marshall Crenshaw and the Finn Brothers permeate the disc, and an Elvis Costello influence occasionally surfaces. Rathbone, however, carefully shuns Costello’s tendency toward verbosity and vitriol. The moving small-town portrait “Hometown Queen” reveals another of the album’s strengths: Rathbone’s and co-producer David Henry’s (Guster, Josh Rouse) attention to musical detail. The subtle use of strings deepens the tune’s inherent melancholia. And while Rathbone hasn’t yet come up something as memorable as his mentors’ classics, he’s fashioned a thoroughly winning pop album filled with strong melodies and well-turned lyrics.
ACOUSTIC GUITAR MAGAZINE - April 2005, No.148 - By Drew Pearce
Joe Rathbone, I Can Hear the Windows of Your Heart Breaking
Learning to fly / Dipping a wing in the ocean / No, you're not high . . . Your heart is finally in motion, Joe Rathbone sings in the opening track of his second album.
Over waves of distorted guitar chords, his falsetto vocal melody glides along as gracefully as the gull described in the lyrics.
On the instrumental break, cello and guitar lines follow and circle each other like birds in formation, giving a subtle new dimension to the words.
Throughout this CD, Rathbone shows a remarkable knack for this kind of synergistic songcraft.
The arrangements are taut yet spacious, occasionally dressed up with masterful cello work by coproducer David Henry, and the recording eschews flashy studio gimmicks;
it simply lets you inside the songs and leaves you humming the choruses, especially on cuts like the title track and Lookin' for Me.
Most importantly, it captures key sonic details, such as the crack of the snare and the crunchy tone of Rathbone's Gibson ES-125, edging the songs toward the rock side of folk-rock. (Zakz, www.joerathbone.com)
The Performing Songwriter - October, 2007
Joe Rathbone, Under the Scorpio Moon
Given the title of Joe Rathbone's third album, it's hard to believe the wayfaring artist has stood still long enough to enjoy any lunar sightings.
A Philadelphia native, Rathbone's made his way from New York to Atlanta, working as a wedding singer and music teacher, and now calls Nashville home.
But don't think that his time in the trenches providing tunes for father-daughter dances makes him comparable to a castoff from an Adam Sandler flick.
Rathbone's songs mix melodic, heartland rock with atmospheric flourishes, calling to mind Tom Petty and Joseph Arthur.
Tracks such as "Mercury" and "Beautiful Noise" incorporate inventive sonic landscapes, but even among the samples and grooves,
Rathbone's inviting, often tender vocals keep the proceedings human and heartfelt.
For an artist who's seemingly chased his musical muse across the Eastern seaboard, Rathbone's an engaging,
burgeoning talent who has his feet firmly planted on this Moon.
- Jesse Thompson
Album Review - The Mercy Alliance - Some Kind of Beautiful Story
Artist: The Mercy Alliance
Album: Some Kind of Beautiful Story
Review by: Heath Andrews 5/09/2014
The Mercy Alliance is one of those rare bands that can find and maintain a happy balance between driving rhythms, serene songwriting, and engaging yet ethereal arrangements. This is due in no small part to the group’s core member, singer-songwriter/guitarist Joe Rathbone. Along with a team of highly talented session musicians, Rathbone’s The Mercy Alliance has generated a remarkably strong indie pop/rock album in the form of 2014’s Some Kind of Beautiful Story.
Joining Rathbone are drummers David Lopez and former Counting Crows member, Steve Bowman, bassist Brad Jones, and producer/keyboardist, Thomas Johansen. Worth noting from the get go is that whether it’s Lopez or Bowman on drums, the dynamic they form with Jones is tremendous. And Rathbone himself takes a unique approach to the guitar, often substituting distinct solos for effect laden atmospheres. This creates an album that can be as driving as it is moody as it is melodic, all tied into a definitively indie pop style.
“Washington” is perhaps the most straightforward track on the album and while not quite indicative of the sound of the record in general; it is a lovely song to open with. Rathbone’s voice is very pleasing and soothing, well matched by the beautiful jangle of the backing guitars. The bass is also very prominent, pushing the song forward even more so than the drums; a good decision considering the tone of the piece. Actually the tone’s somewhat reminiscent of America; think along the lines of “Ventura Highway.”
More in line with the album’s general feel is “All For the Love of You.” Here we’re exposed to the layered guitars and keyboards that give the piece a different kind of feel; like a poppier version of Radiohead or the more experimental side of U2. The rapid drumming and thumping bass keep the song moving forward, but it’s a combination of the vocals and keys that actually deliver the songs sense of melody. Rathbone’s guitar churns and drones, creating a certain energy upon which the vocals and keys charge themselves.
Just past the album’s midpoint is a back to back dose of beautifully rich arrangements with a melancholic touch. “This is How They Know” and “I Can’t Do It” both feature string arrangements by David Henry, and they’re more compelling for it. Even without the strings, each song would be stirring in its own right, especially on the latter given its organ like keyboards and engaging lyrical hook. The former has a deeper vocal from Rathbone, one that resonates more with the stronger bass. But each of the tracks finds their singer more morose and reflective; an emotion that’s enhanced by the strings.
On a different end of the emotional spectrum comes “Libertine,” a fairly stomping song that’s as rocking as they get here but it still holds up in the context of the album overall. Rathbone’s guitar work is more aggressive, coming into the forefront to deliver a series of dirty, bluesy licks in a way we don’t normally hear him play. So not only does it reveal his depth as a guitarist, but it also leads to a powerfully compelling piece of songwriting.
The closing track, “Drifting In” is an interesting note to end on, considering its mixture of relaxed vocals and tense guitar work. At the heart of the song is a very relaxed, ethereal vocal performance. As the title suggests, the singer does seem to drift through the piece, and the bass and drums are fairly unwavering in their methodical beat; something that helps further the almost trance inducing nature of the music. However, lurking behind all of it is a whirring of guitar that often develops into a churning series of distorted, urgent lines. We’re left with an odd combination of tones, one that is very passive, and the other that is forebodingly aggressive. The synergy between them is quite effective, easing the listener into the setting but compelling them to remain alert to the song’s unique sound.
The remainder of Some Kind of Beautiful Story is no less compelling than the aforementioned tracks. The Mercy Alliance matches compelling songwriting with fantastic musicianship and sports one of the more powerful and entertaining rhythm sections in the indie pop world. Some parallels could be drawn to bands like Coldplay, but even then, The Mercy Alliance has cultivated its own sound, backed by the writing talents of Joe Rathbone. Some Kind of Beautiful Story is indeed beautiful, and with its high points on display, you won’t need to search long for the kind of beauty it has.
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)
Review by: Heath Andrews
Mad July - Lo Down review
- Ken Beasley
“Joe Rathbone has hit all the requisite points on the mid-tier alt/folk circuit; Mountain Stage, Starbucks compilation discs, etc, but where he’s ended up, with his most recent release Mad July, is tremendously well positioned in that critical radio-friendly zone, with a diverse mix of solidly written pop songs, and arrangements that are just different enough. FREE // 154 Ludlow Street (upstairs @ the Living Room)”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
- October 19, 2007
He's based in Nashville now, but when he sings "This Is Where I Come From," Joe Rathbone is talking about Philadelphia. It's here where he honed his now-considerable chops in the '90s. "This Is Where . . .," which mentions 69th Street, the Tower Theater and West Philly, comes from his new album, Under the Scorpio Moon, a set that again shows him to be a master pop craftsman. Sometimes buoyant, sometimes dreamy, and often with an undercurrent of melancholy, there's a classic feel to these 10 melodic tunes as Rathbone consistently finds the sweet spot that links catchiness and heart.
- Nick Cristiano
VINTAGE GUITAR MAGAZINE
By Steven Stone | June 2004
Joe Rathbone - I Can Hear The Windows of Your Heart Breaking
The trick to creating a perfect pop confection revolves around getting the mix between sweet and sour just right. Joe Rathbone's songs prove that he has the recipe down pat. Every song on his second solo release, I Can Hear The Windows of Your Heart Breaking, displays a level of songwriting savvy usually associated with contemporary masters like Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe. Rathbone's songs are both fresh and familiar, groundbreaking yet classic.
Great pop music requires that songs be mated with performances and arrangements that "deliver" the music. Joe Rathbone's voice, with its strong falsetto, reminds me of Joe Jackson grafted onto Brian Wilson. The arrangements echo back to the Knack, Beatles, Todd Rundgren, and ELO. Layered musical textures combining dual keyboard and guitar solos, all mated with crunchy electric guitar sounds, make every song a sonic treat, a rocky road ice cream bar full of complementary tastes. Every song displays an attention to sonic detail that borders on excessive. No song escapes getting the star treatment complete with cleverly multi-tracked and carefully processed vocals. But all this studio effort succeeds spectacularly. Instead of sounding fussy and rarefied, the final result yields vibrant yet sophisticated rock and roll.
Obviously producer/engineer David Henry should share in the kudos for this album. All the songs were recorded in his studio. Without his superb production skills and extensive hours of production time this album couldn't have turned out as sonically stellar as it has. Other members of the David family also contributed their skills. Brother Jeff, played Cello, bass, and mandolin, while his twin brother Ned added violin parts. The only other musician was Craig Wright on drums and percussion. Joe Rathbone handled all guitars, piano, keyboards, and vocals besides writing all the songs. Whew.
I'm a jaded old sod. On average I listen to ten new CDs per week. Although I listen to everything that comes in the mail chute, many releases get only a perfunctory listen because they don't have the musical substance to grab me. I Can Hear The Windows of Your Heart Breaking was an exception. It caught me within the first ten seconds and didn't let go till the last cut. Great pop music can do that. I Can Hear The Windows of Your Heart Breaking has the right stuff.