"Brandy Alexander" by Ron Sexsmith
Maybe Ron Sexsmith should put out a lousy album one of these days just to make it easier to appreciate how consistently terrific his output is. Instead, Exit Strategy Of The Soul continues an unbroken string of sweet, wounded pop dating back to the early '90s. Without pushing, Sexsmith lures listeners into a world filled with disappointments offset by the hope of a better tomorrow, even though there isn't a lot of common sense backing up that hope.
Most of the characters drifting through Exit Strategy look to the future for answers, whether they're overwhelmed by life in general ("The Impossible World") or seeking solace in another ("Music To My Ears"). Sometimes the optimism they find isn't just misplaced, it's destructive, as in the politically metaphorical boozing of "One Last Round."
While Sexsmith's songs haven't changed that much over the years, the production behind them has. Producer Martin Terefe, working with Sexsmith for the second time, fills out the sound with strings, a soulful Cuban horn section, and, on one track, Feist, reprising the Sexsmith co-write "Brandy Alexander" from The Reminder. It's a sweet wrapping for bittersweet sentiments. "I can't give up on all these poor helpless dreams," Sexsmith sings on "Poor Helpless Dreams." "For what have they got if they don't have me?" His songs have chased that question years. With luck, they'll never find an answer.