Glen Phillips' recent solo album, Swallowed By The New, is a beautifully vulnerable musical sketch shaded with both ache and aspiration. In broad-brush terms, the album is an aural memoir of Phillips' life since the end of his marriage to wife Lauren in 2014. As a tunesmith, the Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman often delves into matters of the heart with wistful introspection. However, this latest set's eleven tracks lay his soul unprecedentedly bare.
That's not to say that all of Swallowed By The New is teary-eyed rue—Phillips leaves plenty of room for gratitude and empathy. His latest single, "Go", is as much about solicitude as it is regret. "[It's the] idea of breaking up being this act of love, the most compassionate thing you can do," he recently explained to Billboard. "It's inherently a sad song, a breakup song, but it's about that being an act of compassion rather than severance."
Phillips' voice is warm and accessible, innately able to emote deeply without being ostentatious. As the strummed acoustic intro of “Go” bleeds into the first verse, there is an immediate sense of connection between artist and listener, almost as if you're being embraced by someone you've known intimately for years. Those who have followed Phillips' career for the past three decades will hardly be surprised by the song's glasnost, nor will it seem out of character that he's so willing to wax philosophical about the state of his heart in creating Swallowed By The New.
“I wanted it to have optimism at its core," he revealed to The Spokesman-Review last November. "I wanted it to be looking toward the light instead of getting stuck in the darkness, because I have a tendency to get lost there.”
Directed by frequent Toad the Wet Sprocket collaborator Hans Nelemen, the just-released video that accompanies “Go” is gorgeously shot, matching the single's mood and imagery flawlessly. Fans will readily catch the cameo appearance by singer-songwriter Amber Rubarth, who accompanied Phillips on the road during his most recent batch of live dates.
"Go" and its sibling tracks on Swallowed By The New are testaments to both the sadness and beauty of big love and big change, and to the singer-songwriter genre itself. Phillips is bafflingly overlooked as a masterful contemporary composer among his peers, but here's hoping that this exceptional song begins to—rightfully—incite that overdue recognition.