By the time Adem Ilham announces “There will always be room at my table for you” on the last track of his debut solo album, Homesongs, an extraordinary treasure chest of songwriting is a stone’s throw away from closing. Along the way, Ilham gets some mixing help from Kieran Hebden, known also as Four Tet, whose acquaintance with whom can be traced to their days in the British post-rock band Fridge. But Adem’s doing his own thang now, and he’s treating the listening public to his private thoughts on Homesongs. They’re the kind of thoughts that most folks don’t let out of their diaries, and Ilham is fighting with whether or not he should have let them out of his own.
Ilham recognizes the importance of minimalism on Homesongs; the tracks are rooted in his complex acoustic guitar work, but he adds color in the shape of lush organ accompaniments and percussion from sources other than a standard drum kit. The backup vocals are deceptively warm and full, leading us to believe that Ilham recorded the album in a grand opera hall rather than an apartment in Stoke Newington, London.
Sometimes he begins with a whispered verse, revealing some things that he may feel a little embarrassed about thinking in the first place. He may not feel comfortable confessing his hang-ups on “Gone Away” (“I wonder if you are alone tonight, you’re probably laughing at me”), but there’s confidence in his re-assuring chorus. Homesongs‘ duality is attractive. Ilham is back and forth with really affected Gram Parsons-like sentiments, where it sounds as if he will break at any moment, before the whole piece changes. There are suddenly more vocals, more full guitar notes, chimes and autoharp, as if he’s working through a great conflict and using backup in the form of his friends and their eclectic instruments.
This charm recalls the memorable In the Aeroplane Over the Sea from Neutral Milk Hotel, where things sound like they couldn’t possibly have been recorded in a living room with friends. But they were, and to great critical acclaim. It’s the private and the personal here, strewn with both regrets and triumph. By its end, Homesongs feels more like triumph than anything else.