Joshua Radin has been documenting his slow journey of personal healing for a few albums now. While Radin’s entire catalog — ever since his debut album, We Were Here, in 2006 — has always held a mellow sensitivity, his recent work mines for material at greater depths than ever before.
Here, Right Now dropped two years ago, keeping the same steady rhythm at which Radin typically releases his studio albums. It was an LP of insightful, elegant songs from an artist willing to face his anxiety about the future while learning to appreciate the present. Subsequently, The Ghost and The Wall, Radin’s latest venture, is a natural extension from the lessons learned on his last release.
“Fewer Ghosts” is Radin’s signature song here, describing an artist bothered by lesser burdens. His shared sentiments (and lovely acoustic arrangement) help provide a compass for listeners interested in orienting themselves in a similarly healthy direction. “But everyone’s on their own time / For me it was later than most / For all it seemed to come easy / Maybe they had fewer ghosts.” True or not, the ghosts will continue to haunt until exorcised, and Radin has been faithful to face them down all the same.
As “Fewer Ghosts” chronicles Radin’s coming to terms with this perspective shift, The Ghost and The Wall overflows with positive sentiments from there. Radin has clearly found his own ray of sunshine, and he’s committed to help others focus accordingly on songs like “Better Life” and “Hey You.” The former is a heartening song filled with personal encouragement that conjures Sam Beam’s earlier work. The latter is an undemanding mid-tempo number that acknowledges struggle and confusion but offers comfort and presence as Radin sings, “Hey you, come away with me / I’ve got room for your baggage, too.”
That theme of connection is found on other songs in which Radin offers a helping hand or a trusted shoulder. “You’re My Home,” with its Mumford-y stomp, describes the sort of relationship that carries another, while “I’ll Be Your Friend” is as straightforward as it sounds as Radin describes, “So think of me and just believe / You’ve got someone you can hold onto.”
What’s interesting is to see The Ghost and the Wall within the bigger picture of community. Radin sings plenty of songs as the one with something to offer, the artist extending a figurative hand to the audience. Yet he’s also vulnerable and willing to ask for the same, especially on the closing track, “Next to Me.” It’s here that Radin admits he’s still learning and growing, the mark of a trusted artist and friend, as he sings, “Most days I wanna be alone / I think clearer on my own / But now I wonder if I’ve played this life all wrong / And I need you to come along.”
As long as Radin remains this honest and the melodies this sweet, there’s every reason to believe he’ll have enough to say for his next 15 years in the business.