Chris Isaak, ‘First Comes the Night’
On the forlorn “Reverie,” from his first album of original material in more than six years, Chris Isaak sings, “Where do you go when it’s over/ when the reverie goes up in flames?” It’s a quintessential Isaak moment: a brooding, mysterious meditation on the ephemeral nature of love. No one does heartbreak and yearning quite like this veteran singer-songwriter, who sounds renewed here with a streamlined sound in these 12 carefully observed, beautifully sung songs. Mostly written and recorded in Nashville, the tracks once again reveal Isaak to be a master stylist able to express more through subtly caressing a lyric than most vocalists achieve with histrionics. The short, sharply defined songs produced by John Worley capture some of the immediacy and emotion of the singer’s great live performances. “Down in Flames,” the only non-love song, proves Isaak’s wit is still intact, and he rocks and swings with “Running Down the Road” and “Insects.” As usual, though, it’s the moody ballads, like the Orbison-esque “Perfect Lover,” that linger.