By Michael Abernethy
Assistant Arts & Entertainment Editor
Grant-Lee Phillips' new album Mobilize is the folk rock equivalent to an iMac computer -- both are pieces of slick, sharp machinery in shiny, alluring packages.
A gently persistent blend of electronic music and folk rock, Phillips' second solo album runs the gambit from rock to jazz with ease, thanks in part to the singer-songwriter's sparse, haunting vocals.
Frustrated with a lack of commercial success, Phillips amicably parted ways with his former band, Grant Lee Buffalo, in 1999. And though Mobilize is truly a solo project, with Phillips handling all of the instruments and co-producing the album, the album shows virtually no signs of suspect heavy-handedness. Each track is well balanced, the arrangements almost always accentuating the songs nearly perfectly.
The album opens with Phillips envisioning an immigrant's first lonely, confused venture into America on "See America." With the song's lilting melody and interplay between warm washes of acoustic guitar and keyboard flourishes, Phillips manages to record the sound of those long, lonely, crystalline nights in December.
On the title track, Phillips builds a sonic palette that plays like a paisley nightmare. Huge bass drops like a bomb on a churning hell's choir of rattling chains, ghostly synths and a chorus of "whoa, whoas," all while Phillips insists with a desperate whine that, "You gotta mobilize."