Most of the time you can tell a musician has paid their dues by the tone of their voice, like a worn guitar that sounds richer over time. This is the case with New York-based singer-songwriter Howard Fishman, whose latest release, The World Will Be Different, puts the spotlight on his gravelly tone and mood-creating lyrics.
Although Fishman kind of sounds like an early version of Tom Waits, his self described “break-up album” carries a presence of it’s own. It’s rare to hear a deep tenor crooning about heartbreak like he’s got nothing left to live for. Usually when I think of deep voices, I picture a stoic Johnny Cash singing “A Boy Named Sue,” with a smug look on his face pausing in between to have a drink. Not so much with Fishman.
It’s a quaint album for a couple of reasons. His lyrics sit on a sensitive mix of orchesral parts, while an acoustic guitar plugs away so steadily that it’s almost monotanous at times. But it’s the style of the record: steady, subtle, and organic.
The opening track, “ Just You And I,” gives the first peak at the organic nature of The World Will Be Different, opening with a lovely orchestral intro that segways into Fishman’s acoustic guitar. Although it’s often in the backround, his guitar carries most of the album instrumentally which lends to the fact that, in a live show, Fishman could nail most of these songs with just himself strumming away. Trailing quickly behind the opener is the track “Letters From Brooklyn,” which may be the strongest of the 13 songs. It’s effective in it’s ability to paint a vivid picture of a New York life, but also because it’s not overly descriptive or forced.
That’s really the biggest set back for The World Will Be Different — some of the lyrics seem forced, and almost formulaic. Not that patterns are a bad thing, but because the music is so incremental, tracks like “Almost” can be overloaded with order when verses and choruses consistently rhyme.
The end of the album picks up steam however with a haunting Cash-ish tune “Dawn Above.” It’s a perfect finale, because out the entire album, it encompassess the bleak reality of heartbreak most: “I don’t want to go to sleep, I just want to be with you and never leave, I love the way you are, the way you were.”
In a nutshell, there are obvious highs and lows on Howard Fishman’s The World Will Be Different, but despite some of its shortcomings, it’s a charming album. If you’re into Damien Rice or Tom Waits you have to give this a spin.
(Monkey Farm Records, no address provided)