Benjamin Ray, The Daily Vault (Nov. 2, 2012)

Many people face a period in their lives when a dark cloud seems to descend – the fears of aging, the loss of a loved one, the question of one’s purpose, a cynicism that has appeared, whatever – and Gomes articulates this period in his life with clarity and honesty…but there is hope at the end, and that spirit keeps this from becoming a maudlin self-pity party. Gomes uses the songs to examine unresolved issues instead of complain, which makes a world of difference. And he still finds time to have some fun, most notably on the country-flavored “Don’t Trouble Trouble” and the surf-rock of “What You Don’t Say.”      

Although on the surface, “A Pile Of Leaves” seems to be the most detailed song about leaves ever written, it draws the listener in with a Paul Simon-esque vocal, beautiful acoustic guitar work and words reminiscing a happy childhood memory. But things quickly turn bleaker on “The Other Side.” When Gomes sings “I really need to know / What it’s like to go / I spoke to you every day / Waiting for an answer,” you feel the pain in his voice, and the line “I watched you fade to black” sends a chill up the spine every time.

The most powerful song is “The Warm Room,” which uses flavors of the White Album to paint a vivid picture of adopted children and their search, often fruitless, to find their parents. The closing title track is a brief, mournful lament of unresolved issues in general; it ends the disc on an unsettling note.

To make an easy and needless comparison, Gomes would probably fall into the same family as Jose Gonzalez, Jack Johnson, and Paul Simon, yet his idiosyncratic approach to these mostly-acoustic songs, his love of classicist country and ‘60s music, and his eternally upbeat personality (yes, it’s still there) elevate this far above the standard sensitive-dude-with-guitar music one might expect. Loose Ends is his best outing yet; too bad it is only 32 minutes long.

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