In songs like “This is for Someone,” Nolen Sellwood is so much more than a singer; he’s a vocalist who can own the energy of the room even when he’s coming to us from within the four walls of a recording studio. His charisma is one of the focal points to be found in his new album Otherwise, and whether you’ve heard his work before or not, he’s likely to make the sort of impression on listeners one isn’t soon to forget. The stylishness of this record alone makes it a worthwhile listen, but the substance seals it as a true masterpiece.
The percussion backing Sellwood in songs like the title track and “Eccentric Eyes” in particular feels especially well-suited for his performance style, but I wouldn’t say he’s ever dependent on the framework of a beat to set the tone for his work. On the contrary, there’s a lot to be said about how his vocal execution is influencing the design of the rhythm and, therefore, every other part of the song as well. He’s meant to be a star, and his ability to strut as a soloist is arguably more than enough proof to confirm as much.
“Going for the Sun,” “To Be Saved,” and “This Time” are more contrast-driven than the other songs in this tracklist are, but I think the juxtaposition between their structure and that of the other works in this record is essential to our understanding how much depth Sellwood is bringing to the table. This is one artist who has every right to be a little cocky with his disposition, and the fact that he’s presenting as humbly as he is in this LP tells us a lot about who he is both in and outside of the recording studio – especially in comparison to the competition he’s got on the mainstream side of the dial.
Sellwood does a lot to advance the greater narrative in this record through his control over the tempo, and tracks like “What I Wanted,” “Sands of Mine,” “Who Hasn’t Once,” and “Your Light” emphasize his talent for pacing himself lyrically. There’s no rushing in this LP; contrarily, I think it’s obvious that this is a guy who likes to take his time and make something perfect, even if it does require a little more effort than the status quo calls for.
I’m looking forward to hearing more of this music from Nolen Sellwood in the years ahead, and given that it’s been well over a decade since the last time we were talking about an album of note to come out of the rather insular scene he’s starting to dominate, I think longtime fans of acrylic folk/rock are going to be more than pleased with what he’s assembled in this release. He’s not trying to impress anyone, but he’s undisputedly crafting something simply too organic and rich with aesthetical intricacy to be deemed anything other than a premium listen from all angles. If you’re in the market for something different yet compositionally familiar in more ways than one, Otherwise is an LP you should get your hands on.