So I’d say a really good record if you like your troubadours young and wide-eyed. Good enough to knock cynical old me into reviewing at any rate.
Now this is something special. Normally I’m not really into melancholy, soulful pop, especially done by those much younger than me… (I feel it’s just a question of agendas changing as you get older, not the genre per se) but this lad has something of the “Roddy Frames” about him – best of all – despite the cosy, almost clinging nature of some of the arrangements and the words (girl – boy – pining, big metaphors, blah blah), he wins you over with in each track with a soft, entreating vocal take that doesn’t sound affected or forced. His voice is pleasing, simple and unaffected, and it gets you in every song. There’s a feeling that this record could have been made in 1963 or 1984, too. It has that crystalline feeling of floating above the surface of things.
The opener Misunderstood has a nice tensile quality, sentimental it is, but not too maudlin or well, wet. Without sounding like a right patronising prick I find that there’s a bracing sentimentality that you only really experience from listening to Scottish or Irish artists, a sort of pastoral soul-music with a dash of grit about it. And this helps Conor Mason in spades. Lights tails out with a marvellously underplayed chorus – but it’s his voice again that wins you over, soft as a good malt - despite the schmaltz of the strings, despite the sometimes obvious chorus - it’s got that great knack of allowing the listener to relax and suspend disbelief and to fall for that old pop trick once again. Out of the Blue has enough of that Celtic-American country skip about it, as well as some of that “happy lament” feel that Edwyn and Roddy perfected by the end of the track. The record reminds me of Electric Soft Parade too, with its rare but addictive knack of making good, multidimensional pop despite the subject matter.
The titles are melancholy, all about solitude it seems or times of day when you are normally alone or feel alone. Last to Leave, Sundown, In the Doorway etc., etc… It’s all heartstring tugging stuff. Of course he’s singing to his girl throughout this record and all his feelings are on his sleeve but it’s still effective. Last to Leave and In The Doorway are particularly good, the arrangements are stripped back allowing the organ and brass to lend a warm tone, which is a brilliant counterpoint to the whispered vox.
So I’d say a really good record if you like your troubadours young and wide-eyed. Good enough to knock cynical old me into reviewing at any rate. I still wager that the best record in this genre is undoubtedly Hope & Despair but then, I was 19 pushing 20 when that came out, and these things about love and stuff meant so much more then.