Neil Finn is a respected elder statesman of New Zealand pop, with a recording career that stretches back to Split Enz’s 1977 art rock album Dizrythmia, when he joined the band as a guitarist at the age of 18. He wrote hits like ‘I Got You’ and ‘One Step Ahead’ for Split Enz, before fronting Crowded House through during the 1980s and 1990s. But Finn’s career retreated to safety in the first decade of the 21st century, with albums that offered well-crafted guitar pop with diminishing returns.
But over the current decade, Finn has made an effort to challenge himself in new musical contexts. In 2011 he released an album as Pajama Club with his wife Sharon and electronica musician SJD, while 2014’s Dizzy Heights was produced by Mercury Rev alumni Dave Fridmann. Out Of The Silence was recorded in a single four hour period; Finn broadcast the weekly practices and the final recording session as live streams. Finn has previously show-cased his talents as a pianist on other projects, like Bic Runga’s Birds and his live album with Paul Kelly, but Out Of Silence is an entire album of piano-based chamber pop, with Finn abandoning his usual guitar and backed by a small orchestra.
Finn’s songs have often revolved around relationships, but Out Of Silence often addresses the uneasy state of the world, with Finn especially pointed on the final chorus to ‘The Law Is Always On Your Side’:
Say the law is always on your side
But I don’t believe it anymore
Cause I heard it all before
And it’s plain to see that the power is above the law
The topical lyrics, the piano, and the lack of studio candy is a different set of components than Finn has ever worked with before, and accordingly Out Of Silence is different in feel than anything he’s done before. It’s noticeably concise, with ten songs tightly packed into its 36 minutes.
While there’s a backing choir of New Zealand music luminaries like Don McGlashan and Lawrence Arabia, Out Of Silence is subdued; a rhythm section only features on ‘Chameleon Days’ and ‘Second Nature’, while Tim Finn guests on ‘Alone’. Standout tracks include the gorgeous, string infused opener ‘Love Is Emotional’, the direct austerity of ‘The Law Is Always On Your Side’, and the insistent pulse of ‘Chameleon Days’.
Out Of Silence is arguably the strongest solo album of Neil Finn’s career, finding new contexts for his dependably beautiful melodies.