Street Sounds: Crowded House's Neil Finn soars to new heights

Musician Neil Finn started out as an ‘80s melodist in New Zealand new wave band Split Enz and from there fronted Crowded House.

The Kiwi answer to Paul McCartney, Finn is a singer/songwriter/guitarist noted for craftsmanship: His songs are expressive examples of pop/rock songwriting at its tasteful edge.

Finn’s newest solo album, Dizzy Heights, his seventh, is a departure into atmospheric zones.

Producer Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips) helps ease Finn into the stratosphere. The result is a meeting of orchestrated soul and Badfinger style melodic rock (Flying in the Face of Love).

Family members constitute a large element of Finn’s band on Dizzy Heights and this familiarity informs the relaxation that allows Finn to stretch out on these tracks.

Some songs have an open ended form and give themselves over to all manner of cushiony soundwaves (Divebomber), to synthesizers and soft wah pedal guitar work (Recluse).

The pure-toned classic pop voice that is Finn’s vocal trademark gets a tenor treatment on several tracks, giving the music a spacey focus. But Finn’s always made a lasting marriage of smart songwriting and endearing moods and he expands that with rocking gems that flow freely (Pony Ride), guided by melody.

The album’s title captures the spirit of Finn’s latest, as Finn and Fridmann capture sounds and ideas out of the air and set them down into melody and easy grooving songs.

Dean Gordon-Smith is a musician based in the Okanagan, British Columbia. His column, Street Sounds, appears in The Morning Star every Friday.

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