Grant-Lee Phillips’ New Album Is Witty and Indignant

Review: “Widdershins” showcases the troubador’s eclecticism.

Album Review

Grant-Lee Phillips
Yep Roc

Cover of Grant-Lee Phillips Widdershins

Though he can pass for a rootsy troubadour, there’s also a poppier, more playful side to Grant-Lee Phillips—meaning he’s as likely to echo David Bowie or T. Rex as Bruce Springsteen. Widdershins beautifully encapsulates his eclectic range, offering snappy tunes that filter indignation at the state of the world through cutting wit. From growling, “When I hear of fascism/I wouldn’t put it past ‘em,” in “King of Catastrophes,” to a sardonic portrait of a clueless Marie Antoinette in “Unruly Mobs,” to a combustible mix of romance and anxiety in “Another, Another, Then Boom,” Phillips has a knack for crafting vivid vignettes, his weary yet deceptively versatile voice bringing everything to bristling life. For a quick lift to the spirits, try “History Has Their Number,” where he declares, “It means more to create than to destroy,” or “A Great Acceleration,” his sharp rejoinder to tyranny’s creeping advance.