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Jazz - Released January 1, 2012 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 26, 2018 | Billingham Records

Completed over the span of three years and featuring some of his oldest songs, Paul Smith's Diagrams calls to mind the best of his solo career and his time with Maximo Park. Co-produced by Smith's longtime friend Andrew Hodson of Warm Digits -- whose influence can be heard on the deceptively breezy Motorik of "Critical Mass" -- the album's viewpoint is timely despite its lengthy creative process. Smith has been a politically minded songwriter since Maximo Park's earliest days, and his zeal for calling out injustice hasn't faded. When he tackles the paranoia and hypocrisy of the late 2010s on "The Public Eye" or asks for tolerance on "Around and Around," it feels more considered and more genuine than the work of many acts who gained a social conscience after Brexit and Trump. Smith's enduring skill at connecting history to current events extends to the sense of time and place imbued in Diagrams' other songs. On "Syrian Plains," he sings "So Roman/In how we destroy everything we touch" over a grinding riff; "Lake Burley Griffin" is a hypnotic homage to the love between Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin, the American architects who designed the Australian capital city of Canberra. Given his state of mind on Diagrams, it's not surprising that much of the album focuses on the quieter side of Smith's music, particularly on the introspective "Hollywood Hills" and "The Beauty Contest," the latter of which features spectral backing vocals from folk singer Marry Waterson. Whenever it feels like the album might be getting too quiet, Smith delivers a song that evokes some of his band's fizzy energy. "Silver Rabbit" boasts some surprisingly ferocious guitar solos, while "Head for Figures" and "John" trade in the chiming, hyper-literate flirtation at which Maximo Park excel. No matter who he works with, Smith is a thoughtful and thought-provoking artist, and Diagrams features some of his finest songs in a while. ~ Heather Phares

Bebop - Released July 27, 2018 | Time-Life Music

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1960 | Verve Reissues

Alternative & Indie - Released October 10, 2018 | Billingham Records

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Classical - Released November 1, 2011 | Vienna Modern Masters

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 15, 2018 | Billingham Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 11, 2010 | Billingham Records

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Following Brandon Flowers and Kele Okereke's solo efforts, Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith is the latest indie pop vocalist to take some time away from his day job and go it alone with his debut album, Margins. While the post-punk beats and angular guitar riffs of opener "North Atlantic Drift" suggest the famous bowler hat-wearer may be on something of a busman's holiday, its subsequent 12 tracks reveal why Smith felt they didn't fit the mold of his band's previous record, Quicken the Heart. Recorded with the help of Field Music's Dave and Pete Brewis, the first release through his own Billingham Records label still contains his unmistakable Geordie accented tones, idiosyncratic stream of consciousness, and clever lyrical wordplay, but written during the midst of a relationship breakdown, it's a much more personal affair which abandons his usual new wave tendencies in favor of a stripped-back, lo-fi, and reverb-laden sound which recalls the likes of the Doors on the echoing, spoken word psychedelic of "Alone, I Would Have Dropped," Nick Cave on the wistful gothic folk of "Improvement/Denouement," and Scott Walker on the eerie, harmonies and avant-garde acoustics of "This Heat." While its sparse and spacious production feels perfectly suited to the achingly honest themes of betrayal, paranoia, and heartbreak which surround the likes of the delicate fingerplucking ballad "While You're in the Bath," the ghostly atmospherics of "I Wonder If," and the melancholic, mandolin-led closer "Pinball," it makes for an undeniably unsettling and intrusive listen which sounds as if it's been recorded more as a cathartic release than for mass public consumption. Indeed, half the tracks sound like unfinished noodlings rather than fully formed songs, and it's only on the jangly Sundays-esque guitar pop of "I Drew You Sleeping" and the driving muddy rock of "Dare Not Dive" where he allows a few memorable hooks to creep in among the rather creepy lyrics. Margins feels more like something that Smith needed to get out of his system rather than a concerted effort to launch a solo career, and while he's wisely used his short-lived freedom to differentiate himself from Maximo Park, it's ironically unlikely to appeal to anyone but their hardcore fan base. ~ Jon O'Brien

Indian Music - Released January 17, 2018 | MG RECORDS HARYANVI HITS

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House - Released November 14, 2012 | Hexil Creative Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 1, 2010 | V2 Cooperative Music

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