Personnel: Glen Phillips (vocals, guitars, ukulele, keyboards); Todd Nichols (guitars, background vocals); Dean Dinning (acoustic guitar, keyboards, background vocals); Greg Leisz (lap steel guitar); Mikal Blue (ukulele, keyboards); Zac Rae (keyboards); Randy Russ (drums, percussion); Billy Hawn (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Mikal Blue.
Recording information: Ellwood Ride Studios, Goleta, CA (12/2012-03/2013); Revolver Recordings, Thousand Oaks, CA (12/2012-03/2013).
Illustrator: Ben Ciccati.
Photographer: Rob Shanahan.
After riding the waves of soft alternative superstardom to platinum success in the mid- to late '90s, Santa Barbara, California college rockers Toad the Wet Sprocket had an official breakup in 1998 that morphed into an ongoing soft reunion throughout the 2000s, playing small tours or occasional low-key sets while the bandmembers pursued other projects and interests. By 2010, the group decided it was time to officially reunite and work began on what would become New Constellation, the first studio album from the band in 16 years. While time has moved on and the alternative movement that gave birth to TtWS has changed enormously during their time off, they shun any attempt at massive reinvention, and the 11 songs here would have sounded at home somewhere between their earliest, moodiest albums and their more upbeat, best-known mid-'90s alternative fare. Tracks like "The Moment" and "I'll Bet on You" ride emphatic midtempo rhythms and optimistic chord progressions with singer Glen Phillips' distinctive vocals and Todd Nichols' jangling, thoughtful guitar. Much as they're not trying to reinvent the wheel, New Constellation also manages not to come off as a complete nostalgia trip. Tunes like the melodic melancholy of "California Wasted" point to the type of mellow, considered evolution of a band decades into its work but still developing the intricacies of its sound. Older, wiser, and with a newfound hopefulness that wasn't there in their younger days, Toad deliver an uncluttered and thoughtful next step of their ongoing songcraft. ~ Fred Thomas