Musician Phil Spirito is a musician with between 20 and 30 different releases on his resume. He was in the critically-received Rex, he played on several releases by Him, and also added his talents to the album by Loftus (featuring members of Tortoise, among others). Orso is his most recent group project, and My Dreams Are Back And They Are Better Than Ever is his third full-length effort with the group. Much more full realized than the slightly more scattershod first efforts, this newest release is pared back a bit on the production but the instrumentation and music seems to shine a bit more because of it.
Mixing appalachian, folk, and several other styles (I detect a slight bit of jazz in several tracks), it's a release that would probably appeal to alt country and folk fans who don't mind a bit more experimentation. Moving in seemingly reverse lyrical order, the album starts out with the stripped-down "Wedding Song," and while the track is engaging it doesn't hold up nearly as well next to the follower of "Blind Date." With much more lush (but still loose) instrumentation, the track mixes banjo, guitar, strings, horns, and soft percussion for a lovely instrumental bed for Spirito's fragile vocals.
One of the things that makes the album a bit more coherent is that the instrumentals this time around don't seem to vary as wildly as they did on past albums. Instead of squiggly keyboard pieces or lo-fi sampled bits, the group maintains a feel much better with gems like the very pretty, string-touched "Hartz Of Darkness" and the breathy, aptly-titled "Everymans Blues." If previous albums were mainly the work of Spirito with the additions of other musicians, My Dreams Are Back And They Are Better Than Ever seems to very much be the work of a batch of musicians who are very comfortable playing with one another and creating. "Is Christmas Tomorrow" is at the same time both whimsical and touching, not an easy combination to pull off so well, but the group adds the track to the very small batch of songs I don't feel embarrassed to play around the holiday time of year. A throwback album that relies on musicianship rather than gimmicks seems harder to come by these days, and while this newest effort by Orso isn't highly engaging at all times, it is a welcome and worthy effort.