Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, Aug 4th, 2017

Randy Newman: Dark Matter

Randy Newman
Dark Matter
(Nonesuch Records)

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Randy Newman presents his first studio album of all-new material since 2008 with Dark Matter.

“The Great Debate,” at almost nine minutes, features fits and starts stylings (including a gospel choir) as Newman debates our existence. As usual, the seventy-three-year-old takes on heavy matters and politics with his songs. In the silly “umpapa” horns and backing female vocals of “Putin Girls,” though he loses the satire for complete lyrical broadsides.

“Lost Without You” begins with a rush of strings, then turns to a poignant Newman with mainly just his talking-vocals on top of his piano tinkling. The counterpoint of a sad violin against the story of a couple growing older, one partner certainly failing, will run your heart through the wringer. “She Chose Me,” another mainly piano/vocal piece and lovers’ song is yet another tearjerker.

I know Newman is as well known (at least recently) for his Toy Story work as his sardonic views, but Randy Newman sweet and sad is fantastic. His broken down voice and hesitant piano playing add perfectly to the poignancy of his music.

The big stomping 40s-like send-up, “It’s a Jungle Out There,” is the theme song Newman wrote for Tony Shalhoub’s cable show, Monk (first used in the show’s second season).  It’s fun, but after nine years without anything new from Newman, why dust off this old one to present on a rather short-songed release?

“On the Beach” runs round jazzy turns, but the album ending with “Wandering Boy” brings us back around to the solo Newman and sweet sentiment.

Dark Matter is classic Randy Newman with political statements, Americana musical tropes, and some sweetness.

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Randy Newman: Dark Matter