Jim Guthrie
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Jim Guthrie

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The best kept secret in music


Jim Guthrie
Now, More Than Ever
(Three Gut)

Far removed from the wispy, quirky, homemade folk-pop of Jim Guthrie's first two solo records, Now, More Than Ever finds the Canadian singer-songwriter in command of a small orchestra of stringed acoustic instruments, guiding them through passages of astonishing authority and character. It's a lush, gorgeous record, but it's also small and still, full of unassuming first-person monologues like the album opener, "Problem With Solutions," where Guthrie describes the life of a gentle cynic trying to better himself. The marriage of Guthrie's meekness and his rich arrangements creates a subtle, affecting tension, similar to the work of Nick Drake—only Guthrie has traveled in an opposite musical direction from Drake, making his Bryter Layter after nearly five years' worth of Pink Moons.

Now, More Than Ever's "All Gone" encapsulates what the record does so well. It's casually sensational, dropping in stages from a complex opening—pinging guitars, hovering strings, and an abstract call-and-response vocal line—to a forlorn, intimate chorus, featuring the song's third significant melodic change. Guthrie drops little philosophical nuggets along the way ("The thief needs the diamond / like the diamond needs the thief"), all with the reserved, attention-grabbing quality of a respectful "ahem."

The album shares some of the sophisticated "adultness" of late-'70s soft rock (the more pensive variety, like Steely Dan and The Alan Parsons Project), as well as some of the ethereal sorrow of cult mopes like Mark Kozelek and Idaho's Jeff Martin. It also borrows some wide-eyed wit from Brian Wilson and They Might Be Giants, and some compositional vigor from avant-garde classical composers like Steve Reich. It's the work of a man playing with a set of well-worn Tinkertoys, and using the crudely elegant materials to fashion songs like the six-minute "Lovers Do," where the plainspoken description of an everyday spat flows into swooping instrumentation, crafting an epic of minutiae. —Noel Murray

- Noel Murray

Jim Guthrie
Now, More Than Ever
[Three Gut; 2003]
Rating: 8.2

Conjure this portrait: a skinny, corduroy-clad kid, folded up on his or her childhood bedspread, picking at a cheap acoustic guitar and clicking awkward beats into an oversized laptop, red-faced and breathless with the notion of original creation. If nothing else, the image of the humble bedroom troubadour is one of the greatest equalizers in pop music: almost every successful musician started somewhere, cramped, goofy, and cross-legged on beige carpet. The trick is knowing when to bundle up your gear, inch down the hallway, and creep cautiously out the front door to broaden your scope, your skills, and your means.

Having bravely abandoned the scrappy pings and whistles of his Playstation-heavy solo debut, Royal City's Jim Guthrie has finally dragged his guitar out into the open, opting to indulge in some bold studio bluster and multi-instrumental antics for his latest release, the fulsome Now, More Than Ever. Fulfilling the promise of his last full-length, 2002's Morning Noon Night, Guthrie's new album proves he can successfully scramble up the lo-fi ladder without sacrificing any of his quirky charm. The disc, in fact, marks a unique moment of catharsis for the songwriter; Jim Guthrie has left the bedroom.

It's tricky to address Guthrie's maturation without unintentionally belittling his earlier work; 2000's A Thousand Songs was hasty, skittish, and alarmingly energetic, its moments of idiosyncratic brilliance often overshadowed by self-referential giggles. Now, More Than Ever is hardly glossed to perfection (there are still a handful of broken plates, squeaky tiles, and toys exploding in the background), but it nonetheless provides a slightly more substantial pedestal for Guthrie's getting-stronger-by-the-second songwriting. The record's approach is docile, but its impact is immediate: this is an album packed with gorgeous, intricate pop songs, carried by Guthrie's plaintive whispers and delicate strums.

With a battalion of able players backing him up (check the impeccable string swells here, lovingly arranged by Owen Pallett of Toronto's Hidden Cameras, or the shimmering banjo shakes on "Problems with Solutions", carefully played by The Constantines' Bry Webb), Guthrie's songs occasionally evoke the versatile billowing of Sufjan Stevens, or the Byrds-ish croon of The Clientele. "All Gone" shudders open with a chorus of yawning, suspense-heavy strings, each nervous yelp bending back in favor of a soft melody and Guthrie's obtuse poetics ("The forest needs the fire/ Like the fire needs the tree/ Can you make something out of nothing?"). "So Small" is a loping, unpretentious rumination on mortality, gently layered over bleating horns, jangly piano, and a nervously plucked violin.

For most of this record, subtle apprehension rules: despite its perfectly established prettiness, an unspoken anxiety still hovers, each careful arrangement belying a strange urgency-- meticulously bowed violins descend into feedback-heavy outburts, stretches of calm somersault into chaos. These kinds of dualities pervade the album; Now, More Than Ever is both hushed and sprawling, serene and agitated, jumpy and constant. Even if the phrase "Canadian indie pop" rouses your skeptical, hype-resistant scowl from its post-New Years snooze, the lush, orchestral puffs of Now, More Than Ever should prove undeniable: Jim Guthrie's sweet, fertile pop deserves all the praise it gets.

-Amanda Petrusich, January 8th, 2004 - Pitchfork Media

http://www.tinymixtapes.com/musicreviews/g/jim_guthrie.htm - tiny mixed tapes

http://www.metacritic.com/music/artists/guthriejim/nowmorethanever/ - Meta Critic


As Jim Guthrie:
1999 A Thousand Songs CD Threegut Records
2002 Morning Noon Night CD Threegut Reccords
2003 Now, More Than Ever CD Threegut Records
Now, More Than Ever is now available in the USA and the Philipines.

With Royal City
2000 At Rush Hour the Cars Cd/LP Threegut Records
2002 Alone At the Microphone Cd/LP Threegut/Roughtrade
2004 Little Heart's Ease Cd Threegut/Roughtrade


Feeling a bit camera shy


Indie-pop. Tinkering toys, swirling strings or bleeps and bloops depending on what show you catch. Jim has been constructing and deconstructing bands to play his music for the last 10 years. Sounds like: Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Steely Dan.
When he's not playing His own music he is a member of Royal City.