It's easy for a performer like Ron Sexsmith to get overlooked in this era of instant gratification. He sings soothingly, his lyrics are refreshingly prosaic, and his beautiful melodies insinuate themselves in memory without your even noticing. But as his recently released second album, Other Songs (Interscope), proves, this former bicycle messenger from Toronto has quietly become one of the most exciting singer-songwriters of this decade. Under producer Mitchell Froom, whose previous work with Sexsmith is some of the most sympathetic of his career, the singer covers quite a bit of territory with his fragile hooks: the airy gentility of "Thinking Out Loud," the pure Beach Boys pomp of "Average Joe," the deceptively simple propulsion of "Nothing Good," the rolling shuffle of "Honest Mistake." Lyrically Sexsmith covers familiar topics--love and his lack of it--and makes the usual wry observations about the seemingly mundane, but his clear-eyed understatedness renders the end product extraordinary. "Pretty Little Cemetery," for example, sketches a number of parallel opposites--young/old, alive/dead, and inside/outside the cemetery gates--to deliver a sensitive rumination on memory and death without succumbing to morbidity. Sexsmith was originally signed by Interscope exclusively as a nonperforming writer, but his songs are only improved by his distinctive voice, a warm, wispy croon that floats his melodies over the music. Monday, 12:30 PM, Borders Books & Music, 2817 N. Clark, 773-935-3909; 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Andrew Mc Naughton.