While Hand. Cannot. Erase. isn't exactly a back to the roots album, it is certainly Wilson's most accessible as a solo artist since he debuted Insurgentes in 2008. The tone isn't as murky as the last couple efforts, the jazz influences have largely been pulled back in favor of more flamboyant keyboard and guitar flourishes, and the longest and most elaborate songs are full of memorable melodies. There are also a few unique elements as industrial influences pop up for the first time in a while and vocals by Israeli pop singer Ninet Tayeb appear on tracks such as "Perfect Life" and "Routine" to give the album's concept more credibility.
It also helps that the songwriting and vocal lines on this album are catchy as hell. The title track provides the most straightforward example of this with its peppy progression but even the longer songs have distinct lines amidst the tangents with "3 Years Older" in particular offering a gentle refrain after moving away from its "2112" style overture. Wilson's talent for hooks and vocal layering never truly went away but seeing it highlighted on here like this makes one realize how much it's been missed the days of The Incident.
Much like the recent incarnation of Swans, the epic scope of Steven Wilson's solo material combined with the fast rates of its release sometimes lead me to question its quality along with the man's sanity. Fortunately, I love to be proven wrong as Hand. Cannot. Erase. is not only his best solo album but just might be one of the best he's recorded with any group. The structures are as tricky as ever but the changes in tone make it a comforting listen for old fans and new listeners like. Highly recommended to prog fans everywhere.
"3 Years Older"
"Hand Cannot Erase"