Fire’s recent reissue of his fine, gospel flavoured ’Sno Angel Like You served to remind us of the range of the former Giant Sand frontman’s talents. Despite his country roots, Gelb seems at his best when going against the grain and defying expectations. As the title implies, this time around Gelb is ambitiously bidding to add to the Great American Songbook with a jazz-flecked collection of wry, wee small hours ditties.
In February 2016, Howe Gelb made the surprising announcement that he was retiring his longtime project Giant Sand, and while he didn't offer specifics about what he was going to do next, he did end his statement with the words, "Piano for now. Songs forever." Those five words turned out to be an excellent summation of Future Standards, an album that Gelb issued roughly ten months later. Future Standards finds the great Arizona surrealist transforming himself into an alternate world version of Frank Sinatra, singing his own brand of saloon songs suitable for a late night and a glass of good bourbon.
Howe Gelb’s lengthy career as an indie rocker, sometimes going into weird places and often going into the Southwest and Americana, doesn’t point to where he is right now. Future Standards is a piano and lounge singer record. The title contains no irony; Gelb genuinely approaches a broad category of music with a straightforward intention. Playing it cool near the bar, seemingly hanging out with people from Cole Porter to Frank Sinatra, Gelb writes and sings songs that, in some world at least, will one day become standards, all with his own twist.