If there is one complaint to be had with James Iha‘s album, Look To The Sky, it’s that it comes fourteen years after his last solo album, the wonderful Let It Come Down. And you know what? It sounds like it could have been released a year later; it continues that album’s beautiful, lovely, delicate folky pop. It’s not so much a change in style—even though Iha has stated that he wanted to make something that wasn’t so much like that debut—inasmuch as it is a fine-tuning of a sound that was already perfect, requiring new changes. He’s enlisted friends to help him out—folks from Tegan & Sara, The Cardigans, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and even Tom Verlaine.
Big names aside, Look to the Sky is totally Iha’s show. There’s a slightly more up-tempo alt-rock/power-pop vibe going on here; the upbeat rocker “To Who Knows Where” sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a road trip circa 1996, while “Till Next Tuesday” and “Summer Days” find him in total bubblegum pop mode. As awesome as those are, though, it’s when he goes for the softer moments that Look To The Sky really flies high. He’s blended them in between the steady rockers, and as a result, “Dream Tonight,” “Make Believe,” and “Waves” don’t lose their potency. It’s an interesting programmer’s move, as it keeps the album from becoming a tranquilizer. Iha’s career may have started off loud and noisy, but his infrequent role of mastermind of soft, gentle pop music is a role he should take up more than every fourteen years.