"Winter Pays for Summer"

Lost Highway

Glen Phillips was only 14 when he joined the Santa Barbara, Calif., alt-rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket in 1986. He was only 26 when the band broke up in 1998 and he launched both his solo career and the Mutual Admiration Society, his occasional collaboration with Nickel Creek. His post-Toad work features more patient tempos, leaner arrangements, more acoustic instruments and more ambitious lyrics. But the main attraction of his third solo disc, "Winter Pays for Summer," is the same thing that put a couple of Toad singles in the pop Top 20: irresistibly jangly melodies.

In his effort to be a serious singer-songwriter, Phillips's new compositions tackle adult topics: dysfunctional families ("Duck and Cover"), troubling memories ("Cleareyed"), adultery ("Half Life"), a supreme being ("Gather") and married fidelity ("True"). His discussion of these subjects, though, is rather generic, and what makes these songs appealing are not their words but their chiming tunes and the approachable, honeyed tenor that delivers them.

Three of the songs were co-written with Dan Wilson (Semisonic), and all of them were produced by John Fields (Andrew W.K. and the Honeydogs). Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello's Attractions is the drummer, and the guests include Ben Folds and Jon Brion. Phillips holds his own in this heady pop-rock company as if he were the new Rob Thomas.

-- Geoffrey Himes

Appearing Monday and Tuesday at Jammin' Java.