Nathan Lawr

After years of striving, Nathan Lawr has matured into a great songwriter, retaining a knack for hooks with his best band of Minotaurs while penning his most substantive lyrics to date. On previous efforts, Lawr has been content to play the adorably clever romance writer, charming his muses with edgy earnestness. That underlying sharpness surfaces more on A Sea of Tiny Lights, as Lawr's personal reflections have taken on a worldlier tone and he muddies up the trails leading to his infectious choruses. The standout track is "Footsteps," which employs a compelling groove and an abstracted blues vocal structure in exploring a harrowing narrative inspired by the ordeal of Canadian peace activist James Loney, who was captured in 2005 and held hostage in Iraq for over a year. Lawr is a gifted storyteller, able to articulate notions about this era's climate of aggression without clumsy blanket statements, zeroing in on nuanced interpersonal experiences instead. Long straddling a realm between pop and folk shared by the likes of Rufus Wainwright and Ron Sexsmith, Lawr's Minotaurs keep things like "The Glass" and "If You Don't Believe Me" bubbling with sophisticated rock dynamics, adding even more depth to this gorgeous collection of songs. (Exclaim)