The World from the Side of the Moon

by: Phillip Phillips

Winner of the 11th season of American Idol -- aka, the last season to feature Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez as judges -- Phillip Phillips doesn't strictly seem like a pop star, probably because he doesn't sing pop music. Phillips is in thrall to his idol Dave Matthews, patterning every little detail of his style after the jam band icon, borrowing the stuttering acoustic strums and elastic vocal phrasing, letting his folk-rock wander into jazz and smooth soul. So many elements of Phillips' 2012 post-Idol debut The World from the Side of the Moon are taken from early Dave Matthews Band albums it could easily be mistaken for a forgotten record from 1997 or, worse, taken as a parody of DMB's loose-limbed roots pop. Phillips favors both the loverman croon of Matthews ("Wanted Is Love," "A Fool's Dance") and DMB's raucous party tunes ("Get Up Get Down," written in the style of "Ants Marching"), and, it has to be said, he nails his impression, getting each minor inflection precisely right. Consequently, The World from the Side of the Moon kinda sorta delivers upon Phillips' promise: it is a streamlined, smoothed-out Dave Matthews Band album, stripped of any of DMB's idiosyncratic quirks, instrumental virtuosity, and love of the world "belly." If you don't listen closely, it goes down easy, but listening with just a slightly critical ear reveals those similarities as near farcical. Tellingly, the moments that veer away from DMB are those not written by Phillips -- the post-Idol coronation song "Home" and "Gone Gone Gone," both sounding a bit fresher and folkier -- which is an indication that producers Drew Pearson and Gregg Wattenberg knew what it would take to sell this Matthews mash note to a wider audience. [A Deluxe Edition included three bonus live tracks.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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