Audio Mixer: Dave Fridmann.
Recording information: Roundhead Studios, Auckland; Tarbox Studios, Buffalo.
Since 2001's One Nil -- which was later reworked into One All -- Neil Finn has recorded an album with his brother Tim, reunited Crowded House for two new albums, formed the collective 7 Worlds Collide, launched Pajama Club with his wife Sharon, and released a live record in tandem with Paul Kelly, but despite all this activity there is one thing he's avoided: releasing a collection of his original songs under his own name. Dizzy Heights rectifies that situation and not in a predictable fashion. Collaborating with Dave Fridmann, a producer who made his reputation through his work with neo-psychedelic bands Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips, Finn luxuriates within the fathomless spaciness of Dizzy Heights. Effects and sounds bubble up and fade away and, initially, it's hard not to concentrate on these shifting soundscapes, not because they're foreign to Finn -- ever since the initial disbandment of Crowded House he's been increasingly restless and experimental -- but because the production is as focused and precise as his songcraft. This is a new development. Usually, whenever Finn indulged in spacy, elastic psychedelia the results were pleasingly hazy, but here every electromagnetic throb and aural shard is in its right place, heightening the overall effect and, occasionally, distracting from the typically finely constructed tunes. Underneath the aural lava lamp, Finn is taking compositional risks, too: the title track is underpinned with smooth soul, "Divebomber" unfurls into an ominous march, and "White Lies and Alibis" has a tension within its structure in addition to its skittering, skeletal production. Finn still turns out strong pop songs as expected -- "Flying in the Face of Love," "Pony Ride," and "Recluse" -- but the Fridmann production keeps them lively and surprising, which is the key to Dizzy Heights: it is a seamless blend of Finn's longstanding popcraft and latter-day adventure, and it satisfies on both counts. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine