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Although Joseph Arthur has seemed like the epitome of the New York City “downtown cool” musician for more than 20 years now, there has always been a gentleness and warmth to his work that have set him apart from his more swaggering peers in the scene. His emotional honesty and depth have never been more apparent than they are on Come Back World, his 14th studio album. Arthur has been candid about going through tough times recently, but while this album was created out of that turmoil, it is arguably his most optimistic and uplifting work to date. In fact, after only a couple of listens, it quickly becomes apparent that Come Back World stands with his strongest material. With his signature slightly husky voice and intricate acoustic guitar-based rock instrumentation, he is at once striking and soothing, especially on “Seek and Find,” where quietly evocative verses swell into powerful, anthemic choruses. “Somewhere With You” is similarly moving, with romantic lyrics made all the more affecting thanks to beautifully yearning harmonies. The cinematic “Pale Fire” is guaranteed to become your next favorite earworm thanks to the unusual vocal stylings in the passionate chorus. “Streetcar” verges on joyfulness, a jaunty beat underpinning clever story-song lyrics describing a compelling and imaginative journey “riding on the streetcar, holding on / Past the hourglass shop, where they’re pawning off your store / On Elysian Fields at the crack of dawn / And one in the morning’s when it feels like you’ve only just begun.” While some of these songs are somber and serious, none are bleak or self-pitying. Instead, they encourage introspection and inspire hopefulness. It seems that Arthur has emerged stronger than ever from the difficult time in his life, and now perhaps his music will help listeners find their way out of darkness, too.
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