Ron Sexsmith is in a difficult spot: Despite his well-structured pop songs and praise from the likes of Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney, his music has been confined to critical darling status. It’s a shame, because Sexsmith’s music comprises orchestral, Brian Wilson-esque love odes at times, and at others, contemplative, Sea Change-era Beck tunes. His newest album, Forever Endeavour, fuses those elements into an album of tightly-packed pop goodness.
Sexsmith is at his best when he doesn’t try to do too much. Songs like the jaunty “Nowhere Is” and the slow-rolling “Lost in Thoughts” are simple country-folk structures that showcase Sexsmith’s old soul vocoal with rising and falling strings and slide guitars. The latter track could easily be a ’70s Leonard Cohen cut (who’s another strong supporter of Sexsmith), gliding over the ears like a sea breeze.
“Sneak Out the Back Door” lets Sexsmith’s words take front and center — just him and his guitar. He tells the story of a relationship falling apart and how he’s “never been good at saying good-bye” so he’s just going to “sneak out the back door.” The old sad-words-over-jolly-melody trick works fantastically— especially at the end, when he sings, “When my life is over / gonna sneak out the back door / Hadn’t much of a Midas touch / No luck for sure / Give my regards to the people in charge / As I sneak out the back door.”
The few missteps on the album are the too-pristine “Back of My Hand” and the forced Dixieland stomp of “Me Myself and Wine”. The production and extraneous instruments make the songs sound overwrought, particularly the horns on the latter. Overall, though, the album is crisp and straightforward, making Forever Endeavor a big step toward Sexsmith gaining household-name status.
Essential Tracks: “Lost in Thought”, “Sneak Out the Back Door”