Greg Laswell Aims For The Obscure With ‘Covers II’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Apparently pleased with the freedom found the first time he devoted an entire EP to songs of other artists, Greg Laswell offers a belated sequel a full decade later and expands its content in the process. Like its predecessor, Covers II mostly leans towards the obscure, but here, as before, it matters very little. Laswell’s subdued set-ups, barren arrangements and an overall atmospheric ambiance bear little resemblance to the original offerings anyway, making the familiarity factor a mostly moot point. Here again, Laswell can be credited with creating a work wholly his own.

…Or almost all his own. Singer Molly Jenson makes an appearance on three of these eight songs, creating a distinctive dynamic that retrieves those selections from Laswell’s darker depths of despair. Her presence is especially pronounced on the album’s final entry, “Don’t Give Up,” which allows her and Laswell to recreate the hushed harmonies with which Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel graced the original. That track and a replay of the Psychedelic Furs’ signature “Love My Way” are easily the best-known offerings here, but takes on PJ Harvey’s “A Place Called Home” and Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” elevate the hipness factor considerably.

To his credit, Laswell tapped tunes that easily accommodated his forlorn focus while also emphasizing a distinct feeling of ominous intent. That meditative mood remains consistent from song to song, and if one isn’t fully focused on the proceedings, the overall uniformity doesn’t allow for any real variety or distinction when navigating from track to track. In that regard, the album is best considered an interesting collection of curios, a sepia-tinted set of songs that’s intriguing as well as softly surreal. In that regard, Covers II could also be seen as a sort of stopgap effort that offers Laswell time to formulate his next initiative while giving his fans a parcel to ponder in the interim.

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