Often I like the idea of Brian Eno more than Brian Eno himself.
From his time in Roxy Music to his groundbreaking work as a producer for the likes of U2 and David Bowie, Eno has often been behind the boards for many of your favorite albums. Also it’s hard to overstate the long shadow that his ambient influence has cast over popular music in recent decades (Steven Hyden made a good case on Grantland that Kid A was just Brian Eno meets Aphex Twin).
He’s also a critically acclaimed solo artist, but this is where I start to struggle. His most popular albums (Another Green World and Discreet Music come to mind) are all fine works that I sometimes think are great if I’m the mood. But often this requires me to study the album and trace its influences to what came after. I’m not naturally attracted to ambient music, so I have to tell myself that Eno is good in order to believe he’s good.
“By This River” is different. It’s one of the rare moment I hear Eno as a genuine singer-songwriter. And he sounds great! It’s sparse and fearful, with minimal instruments accompanying Eno’s soft voice. It sounds like the humanized Kid A. It has melody. It’s beautiful.
Maybe I’ll give Another Green World another shot.