Album Review: Steven Wilson, To The Bone

Genre: Melodic Prog Rock, Pop
Musicianship: 4.0
Songwriting: 4.0
Production & Engineering: 4.0
Vibe: 4.0
Overall Rating:

Steven Wilson needs little introduction to our serious musician audience, and if all goes well with publicity efforts behind his latest solo work, To The Bone, he’ll need little introduction to the world of mainstream rock and pop fans soon enough. In fact, we’re done making reference to his legacy band work, and we won’t even mention that other great band he’s part of, because with this being his fifth full-length solo release, this is an artist whose body of work is expansive even without all of the other incredible work he’s created over the past couple of decades.

Getting right to the point, To The Bone is one of the finest records that Wilson has written and recorded, and it’s sure to win new fans thanks to the catchy hooks and pop rock attitude that is a marked departure from his recent progressive rock masterpieces. Old school, die hard, tunnel vision, classic prog fans may not appreciate the happier side of Wilson, but fans of ‘70s pop, ‘80s new wave, and fans of early Porcupine Tree music (oops!) will love this musical evolution.

The infectiously catchy single, “Permanating,” should cement Wilson’s place among history’s greatest pop songwriters, with a vibe that straddles a fine line between Electric Light Orchestra and Abba. We love the classic rock meets Deadwing-era Porcupine Tree vibe in songs like “Nowhere Now” and the Blackfield vibe of the album closer, “Song of Unborn.” Damn. We just can’t escape bringing up his other musical output, can we?

To The Bone is full of great modern rock, too, with a new wave inspiration that obviously came from the likes of Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Talk Talk, and other “refined” British pop music makers of that era. But instead of rehashing the past, the vibe here is contemporary. “Pariah” and “Song of I” are just two great examples of Wilson’s ever expanding musical vocabulary, with outstanding female vocals provided by Ninet Tayeb and Sophie Hunger.

Unlike the previous few Steven Wilson records that were rehearsed and recorded with his live band, To The Bone was written and recorded mostly as a solo project, with Wilson performing most of the guitar, bass, and keyboard duties, though it does have plenty of guest appearances instrumentally from members of Wilson’s live band plus a wide range of additional players. As such, he did a great job of refreshing the overall sound, making things far more contemporary sounding than his recent solo records. This one is an absolute gem, one of the best in his expansive body of work. You need no previous familiarity with his catalog to dive right into To The Bone. It’s easily one of the best records of the year, and one of Wilson’s finest, with many layers of beauty to unravel with each passing listen.


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