Long have we lauded the sounds of Crayon Fields, the wonderful Australian pop group, but now we have more reason to cheer, as singer Geoffrey O’ Connor steps outside the band, releasing his first album under his own name. If anything, Vanity is Forever, establishes O’ Connor as more than your average songwriter; his apparent gifts are too great to label him anywhere near average.
From the moment “So Sorry” takes off you can clearly see that Geoffrey O’ Connor is concerned with the arrangements surrounding his songs. There’s a bit of sweeping ambiance that coats his cool vocal delivery, perhaps giving a nod to popsters of the 80s. But, it’s lead single, “Whatever Leads Me to You,” that combines modern tones with hints of nostalgia, crafting one of the year’s best tracks. Geoff has this frivolous crooner personality, at least in the vein of his vocals, as if he’s somewhere between whispering in your ear and serenading you at a club. The guitars are subdued, with emphasis on the string arrangements, building a wall of around the internal melody. Simply magnificent.
You might label some tracks on Vanity is Forever as throwback-kitsch, such as “Proud,” which clearly revolves around the keyboard driven moments of yesteryear’s club hits. Yet these tracks offer more in the way of his lyrics, which are always extremely personable, allowing O’Connor to present himself to his audience in a way that no longer seems in fashion. In what I personally find to be one of his best penned lyrics, he sings “I hope my friends don’t all get married/that they leave some part of themselves for me,” on “Like They Say It Does.” Perhaps one might find it a tad self-indulging, but one cane easily relate to the sentiment of longing to live a life filled with friends and accomplishments. There’s nothing abstract in the presentation, and the sincerity is quite refreshing.
While there’s definitely a bit of pace to the majority of the tracks, in so far as you can swing your hips a bit, there’s a few wonderful slow burners that show Geoffrey O’ Connor in a reflective state that benefits the listeners, and we hope the songwriter as well. “Surely,” the album’s closer, is built on a slow-moving piano, and even it’s basic construction, cleared for the most part of the record’s arrangements, shines a light on how much confidence he has in his writing and delivery. What may appear banal in most circumstances, shows its inner beauty under a different microscope.
As much as I’ve fawned over The Crayon Fields since I came across them years ago, Vanity is Forever is a different animal altogether. It shows Geoffrey O’ Connor crafting gems that seem to fit in any time period, filled with melody and a bit of sensitivity that often escapes your run of the mill indie affair. It’s an album that’s affecting on a personal level, even for those unfamiliar with his previous work, making the whole ordeal a timeless piece of beauty.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/07-Now-And-Then.mp3]
Download: Geoffrey O’Connor – Now And Then [MP3]