“The Conversation is the eighth solo album by New Zealand singer/songwriter Tim Finn” (Wikipedia), “best known for his stints with Crowded House, ALT, The Finn Brothers and as frontman for Split Enz. With The Conversation, Tim has delivered his most intimate album to date” (Amazon.com). “There are echoes of his melancholy 2004 collaboration with brother Neil, Everyone Is Here” (Erlewine), but “Finn has never quite had an album this gentle or delicate before” (Erlewine). “This is as naked and emotional as Tim has been on record” (Erlewine). The “songs…are fragile, yet self assured, with Tim’s distinctive vocals and lyrics being the primary focus” (Amazon.com). “The Conversation is an appropriate name” (Erlewine); “its coziness feels like a secret shared between two close friends” (Erlewine).
“Recorded at Roundhead Studios in Auckland” (Amazon.com), “the album’s working title was Echo Chamber” (Wikipedia). The “scaled back…largely acoustic based” (Baillie) affair was “conceived to be almost like chamber music, where the individual instruments come together to create something much greater than the sum of it’s parts” (Amazon.com). “Nothing about The Conversation is loud: there are no crashing drums – there’s barely any percussion – and the arrangements are so spare they sometimes seem like nothing more than an acoustic guitar and piano graced by another vocal harmony, although closer inspection reveals some subtle, crucial texture and shading, usually derived from woodwinds or violins” (Erlewine).
The album is co-produced “by Ethan Allen, who is known for his work with famed producer Daniel Lanois” (Wikipedia) “and former Split Enz member Eddie Rayner” (Amazon.com); the latter “plays piano throughout” (Erlewine). The album also includes violin from former Split Enz member Miles Golding (Baillie).
If the presence of former Enz bandmates “suggests a connection back to the psychedelic parlour-pop of early Split Enz, there’s more echoes throughout” (Baillie). “Finn’s delivery on songs like Slow Mystery and Fall from Grace recall the nervy young fellow of the Mental Notes era. Only a Dream, with its cruise ship chords, is a spoon solo away from being another Enz throwback, though the best use of non-instrumental hardware comes on The Saw and the Tree with its saw solo” (Baillie).
“All of The Conversation feels as if it were built on this kind of reflective introspection or, failing that, a bit of subdued relaxation, as on the lighter Snowbound” (Erlewine). “It’s an album that starts off on a sombre note with the minor key opener of Straw to Gold and has its melancholy streak running through the likes of the aforementioned ‘Slow Mystery,’ the mournful death-in-the-family tale of Invisible and the Beatles-quoting Rearview Mirror” (Baillie). “It’s all tied together by its quietness” (Erlewine).
“There is a bit of that trademark jauntiness on Forever Thursday (a title which must have amused album guitarist Brett Adams whose previous life in the Mockers delivered ‘Forever Tuesday Morning’) but its heartfelt take of Finn’s courting days with his wife make it sweet rather than sappy” (Baillie).
“Throughout, melodies keep things buoyant and, while sparse, there’s plenty of detail that grabs the ear, with Adams’ guitar providing plenty of colour. And that’s whether it's the full-bodied Imaginary Kingdom (having a title track arriving an album late now seems to be a Finn-quirk) or the simple elegance of Out of This World which emerges as Finn's best busker-friendly ballad since ‘Persuasion’” (Baillie).
“More Fool Me, a song clearly aimed at Enz co-founder Phil Judd” (Baillie), “ends the album on an affecting note” (Baillie). “The line ‘It’s not all bouquets and white crayons’ quotes from ‘Matinee Idyll (129)’ from the first Enz album, while discussing their long-fractured friendship” (Baillie).