An album to quell the most uproarious souls
Beginning as 'A Rush Of Blood To The Head'-era Chris Martin false-starting his new solo record with a gasped two attempts at getting the first word out: "Whii... Whiii..." then collapsing into a beautifully subtle song that sings of crushed romance and is coated in flower petals pressed into melodic shapes of dying reds and brittle blues. M Ward's style is lovely and slow, soft and swelling, and bright and exuberant in turn. His cover of Daniel Johnston's 'To Go Home' is a special sounding romp, delivered with true care and devotion to the man behind the original work, whilst the album's title track is a so soothing stroll through a wondrous landscape of tantalisingly tearful scenery.
Having been the guitarist for Bright Eyes on the Bruce Springsteen-led Vote For Change tour, and invited personally by Meg White to open for the White Stripes he's seen a lot on the indie/folk scene, but whether or not he's had all this experience, his natural talent for tune shines through in his song-crafting mastery. He incorporates all sorts of styles into his music, reggae inflexions occasionally in his vocals, 60s grooves to his pots and pans percussion, but all the while his songs on this album seem so completely right and well-formed and he certainly demonstrates himself as being a master of his trade. There's some Devendra Banhart in 'Requiem', a voice that coos and woos and whoo-hoo-hoos throughout like that mad charming gypsy fellow, and there's often the essence and soul of Nick Drake in such numbers as 'Eyes On The Prize'; the quaint little piece that would very much suit the slow dance at a party of only two people.
'Magic Trick' is a really cool song, very much in the mould of The Beatles in their more experimental stage, circa Sgt. Pepper's and The Magical Mystery tour, it's short and humorous and totally engrossing, merging the likes of the Eels with The Band.
Altogether the album never fails to excite, the little Shadows-inspired excursion of 'Neptune's Net' puts you in the mood to dig out those records you banished to the corner long ago and do the walk, but that desire is soon quelled by 'Rollercoaster' with its old jazzy, smoky-room feel; Nina Simone or Ella Fitzgerald crooning away whilst pirouetting around a piano, and it's back to Chris Martin getting real soulful again in 'Today's Undertaking'.
There's never a moment where the thing turns floppy or dull, there's an abundance of beauty, soul-searching and worry-drenched musing, which is delightfully tranquil and encapsulating, and there's enough fun and frolicking about to keep it kicking too. Ender 'Afterworld/Rag' is the perfect way to sail it out and sum it up, epic in stature and utterly engrossing in its delivery, it'll keep this record on your night time listening shelf for years to come, no doubt about it.