The Lone Gunman
Idaho Music

The loudest record Jeff Martin ever made was also the most crushingly sad. It was 1993's Year After Year, the record with one other guy on it. Since then, he's usually worked alone, navigating a vision that grew at once more experimental and less exhausting. As he's screwed around with electronics and negative space, his low, unsteady voice, which once channeled the purest depression in popular music, now sounds more peacefully contemplative. Sad, maybe. Miserable, nah.

Idaho never again bottled Year After Year's melancholy majesty, but it never did what anyone expected, either. On The Lone Gunman, a roughly even split between songs and instrumentals, Martin drops the guitars altogether. This strange, gentle beast knows only piano, Wurlitzer and Prophet 5. That leaves little angst, at least as expressed in the language of rock. The Lone Gunman exists at a point where pain is all the more real for its frustrating subtlety.

NBC hunted Martin's head to score its new show "Inconceivable." Most of The Lone Gunman sounds like the soundtrack to something, so take into account your general feelings on soundtracks and proceed with that in mind. Two of the songs protrude proudly from the rich, compelling wallpaper. "When Sunday Comes" is some muffled weirdness with a warped rhythm. On "You Flew," Jeff Martin, he of one of the most exquisitely anguished voices in music, sings over a polka beat. It's a bit like a sad limerick.

Emerson Dameron

this review is/was online at Flagpole
and is available here for archival purposes only