The problem with too many "literary" songwriters is that their songs serve their words, not the other way around. A drably perfect example is Waiting In Vain, the debut by former Wooden Wand And The Vanishing Voice frontman James Jackson Toth. Where Wooden Wand benefited from an early-T. Rex folk fixation and shrooms the size of Bikini Island, Toth's solo work is careful, measured, and mannered. And dull. "Look In On Me" jumps up and down—lethargically, of course—to point out how much it resembles an outtake from Imagine, and "The Park" squanders its energy on melodies that evaporate the instant they touch air. But Toth's lyrics shine: Even as songs like "My Paint"—basically a sterilized Wooden Wand tune—fade to nothingness, Toth whips up some vividly imagistic couplets and seemingly playful turns of phrase that leave an acrid aftertaste. Which would be great if Waiting In Vain was a book of short stories. There are a dozen directions Toth could've taken after Wooden Wand—in fact, he already has, with the Jex Thoth project, whose recent self-titled debut is a ragged, doom-soaked beauty. But Waiting In Vain? Decent read, tedious listen.

Advertisement