Robyn Hitchcock’s twentieth studio album, The Man Upstairs, features an acoustic guitar and occasionally some piano, cello, or vocal harmonies courtesy of Anne Lise Frøkedal from the Norwegian band Harrys Gym. It combines stripped down versions of well-known songs like The Doors’ The Crystal Ship with five original recordings, which in my opinion are the best tracks on the album. Hitchcock said this about the new album: “Sometimes you find other people’s songs that you wished you’d written. And if you didn’t write them, at least you can sing them.” For this record, Hitchcock, a veteran musician with a career spanning over 40 years (The Soft Boys, Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, etc.), makes the lyrics the priority for this album by keeping the music arrangements as minimal and limited as possible emphasizing vocals. The Man Upstairs doesn’t break any new musical ground or attempt to score a hit; it’s simply a collection of very honest renditions of old and new songs by a passionate and legendary singer.
RIYL: Iron & Wine, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, José González, Sharon Van Etten, and Destroyer’s Five Spanish Songs.
Recommended Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 6, and 10
1. (4:28) **The Ghost In You – A great rendition of an iconic modern rock classic from the 1980’s – originally done by The Psychedelic Furs. Solid opener.
2. (4:20) ***San Francisco Patrol – A beautiful song interpreted with true melancholy. One of my favorites on the album.
3. (4:11) *To Turn You On – A charming Roxy Music cover done with guitar, cello, and piano.
4. (4:42) **Trouble In Your Blood – Another great Hitchcock original. Haunting.
5. (2:22) Somebody To Break Your Heart – Short bluesy playful track with harmonica parts.
6. (5:08) **Don't Look Down – A noteworthy Grant-Lee Phillips cover. A deliberate attempt to inhabit the soul of the song.
7. (3:02) Ferries – The most standard acoustic track on the album. Nice vocal work.
8. (3:08) Comme Toujours– Another standard acoustic track here.
9. (2:27) *The Crystal Ship– An intriguing rendition of The Doors’ classic. Brief and notable.
10. (4:26) **Recalling the Truth – Impressive track. Fantastic closer!