Generally favorable reviews - based on 10 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 10
  2. Negative: 0 out of 10
  1. The overall mood is casual, laidback, and relaxed.
  2. The Listener is ultimately such a strange record that it's hard to really classify; Giant Sand fans are going to love it, naturally (all twelve of them likely already own it), but people new to Gelb and his accomplices might be left scratching their heads.
  3. 80
    There's a moving intimacy and improvisational feel to the wistful, late night, piano songs. [Apr 2003, p.108]
  4. A limited vocalist,... he's a far better pianist and arranger. [May 2003, p.104]
  5. 40
    At his best he sounds spontaneous, fresh and unexpected. Yet at other times his quirky ideas can sound half-baked and his songs undeveloped. [May 2003, p.102]
  6. The combination of the two styles -- Gelb's newfound sense of stateliness and his traditional windburned sense of arrangement -- make for a new peak in his career.
  7. "The Listener" is a low-key, early morning album, perhaps something Lou Reed would have created had he spent his career playing saloons in Tucson, Ariz.
  8. Opener "Glisten" is anybody's masterpiece.... This instrumental brings so much anticipation to the rest of this record, it's no wonder I'm partly disappointed with The Listener: Gelb can't and doesn't deliver a dozen more songs like "Glisten".
  9. Too much of The Listener finds Gelb bridging his inspired moments with monotonous jazz piano and dusty crooning.
  10. It all sounds very loose and off the cuff, but any positive sense of spontaneity is sabotaged by a delivery so careless it borders on the sloppy. [#229, p.68]

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