Joshua Radin’s Onward and Sideways is his sixth album since his 2006 debut, We Were Here. And since that debut, the critically acclaimed singer/songwriter has become something of a folk god, amassing a legion of loyal followers. His songs have also been placed in more than a few TV shows. Whether you’re looking for a super romantic, happy moment ballad or you’re looking for a crushing ballad for the post break up montage, Radin is your guy. Nobody does this stuff better than him. Not even Ryan Adams. (No offense to Ryan Adams fans; I’m a fan of his myself.)
Onward and Sideways finds Radin at the top of his game, delivering one smooth song after another, each of them charmers. What makes his voice so remarkable is that you listen to him and you just know he could sing pop or rock or blues if he only veered slightly more in one of those directions. Yet, somehow, he continues to be Josh Radin, king of folk, although it’s obvious that he’s influenced by all of the genres just mentioned. His rock influence is especially evident during the first couple of tracks here, the sweet slow rock of “We’ll Keep Running Forever” and the vibrant “Belong,” which features the jumpiest percussion ever to grace one of his songs. “Just keep holding on / Soon you’ll see that you belong,” he sings beautifully during “Belong,” attempting to sway a woman’s heart in his direction. Quite literally, in fact, it turns out. Radin speaks about the record: “I had met this woman six years ago and we were friends for the last five, but we started dating a year ago. At first it was long distance — she was living in Stockholm and I was living in Los Angeles — and she was very wary of getting involved. Essentially, I wrote this album to convince her to fall in love with me.”
It would be difficult to come up with a better reason for making an album than that. And when you listening to Onward and Sideways knowing his reason for making it, it only serves to make it that much more enjoyable. To that end, you could probably consider it a concept album, since all of its swoon-worthy love songs were written to move one particular woman. And one could appropriately deduce that this is the perfect album to buy your sweetie for Valentine’s Day this year.