King Creosote – Thrawn

Rating: ★★★★½

In all likelihood, you’ve probably heard very little about Kenny Anderson up until this point in time; I was definitely in the same boat.  However, the release of Thrawn, the first King Creosote album to make its way overseas should hopefully change that, at least if you’re listening closely to the album.  It’s a Scottish influenced folk affair from a man who doesn’t seem to be seeking out the fame and fortune of other bands, instead he’s quietly releasing his own music, whether we pay attention or not.

Once you play the opening track “Bootprints,” you might find yourself thinking of cleverly crafted pop music a la Sondre Lerche.  Anderson’s voice is so perfect, in both pitch and tone.  The music has a hint of cocktail lounge, giving a little hint at some sort of modern tropicalia. But, Thrawn isn’t a record that’s going to stay in one place for too long.

“You’ve No Clue Do You” recalls Van Occupanther-era Midlake, or one could throw Fleetwood Mac into that too.  However, it’s Anderson’s slight change in pitch during the chorus, going just a tad bit higher, that really makes such a track truly remarkable. Then it moves off into “King Bubble’s in Sand,” which has more of an oddball folk appeal, though not in an overly quirky sense.  It’s a short track, and it uses some non-traditional percussion to go along with slight piano dancing in the background, then it’s over in less than two minutes.  But, that’s okay, as King Creosote offers up one of the album’s greatest tracks, “Missionary.”  You’ll probably notice some similarities in the vocal performance here, and the strumming for some reason reminds me of innocent campfire scenes surrounded by fans.  There’s nothing contrived or dishonest here…just straight-ahead pop glory.

One of the unique things about Thrawn is that despite various nod to other musicians, whether intentional or not, the entire record sounds perfectly fresh.  You get a song like “Little Heart,” which sounds like a great deal of Scottish janglers, yet it’s one of those songs that rises out of such an homage, establishing itself on its own merits.  There’s some backing vocals to provide more-depth, and the pacing just fits perfectly with the overall mood of the song.  I mean, listening to this song, “what’s with the frown?”

For the little I know about King Creosote, despite my research and press bios, I wasn’t entirely prepared for such heartfelt songs like “My Favourite Girl.”  It’s a pretty simple ballad, similar to many marking the twists and turns of this album, but there’s something emotionally moving about the track.  It’s an unexplainable thing; it’s not the piano atop the gentle strumming, or the softness of Anderson’s vocals; its just got that “it” factor that we all yearn for in our everyday listening experience.  You’ll find many tracks like this throughout the whole of Thrawn, probably different than the ones that stood out to my ears.  Such is the force of this record, appearing out of nowhere to win over countless listeners, on the recommendation of one man alone. Hopefully this great work will not go unnoticed any longer; go check out the King.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/04-Missionary.mp3]

Download: King Creosote – Missionary [MP3]

Sondre Lerche @ The Parish (2/3)

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Date 2/3/10
Location The Parish
Doors 8pm
Tickets $15 from FrontGate

We weren’t huge fans of Sondre Lerche’s last album, but we still value him as a musician and songwriter.  If he floats your boat, head on over to The Parish on Wednesday night to check out his intimate set.  Opening support will be provided by JBM.  I’m gonna drop an old tune down below to show you why  we’ve still got love for ya Sondre.

[audio: http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/04-two-way-monologue.mp3]

Download: Sondre Lerche – Two Way Monologue [MP3]

Sondre Lerche – Heartbeat Radio

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Rating: ★ · · · ·

Long ago, upon the heels of Faces Down, Sondre Lerche was quite the boy-wonder many fans of simple pop had been looking for all their lives.  His lyrics weren’t to abstract, and his handle over melody made his innocence resonate with every listener.  Here we are now, 2009, and he’s releasing Heartbeat Radio to great anticipation.  How has he grown up, and where does it leave him now?

First track, “Good Luck,” is something of a statement song, as grandiose symphonic arrangements are placed throughout the tune.  Here is Sondre, sounding as hypnotic as ever, yet something seems a bit off from it all.  Guitars are really low in the mix, placing the emphasis more on the orchestral arrangements instead of his own songwriting.  But this backs into “Heartbeat Radio,” which comes off with the sensible delivery Lerche has always carried with him.  It’s as close to the proximity of his earlier work as you are likely to get on this album.  And that is the problem that lies at the heart of this album overall; Sondre seems to have indulged his fancy one too many times, forgetting that the quality of his tunes lived in the simplicity of his arrangements.

Songs like “I Cannot You Go” or “Pioneer” are pleasant enough songs, but they don’t seem to have the passion in the vocals and the lyrics that used to make Sondre so appealing to the masses that followed him.  More so, he’s placed some unforgivable moments in here, such as “If Only,” which seems like a half-assed Jack Johnson impression. At the middle of the album listeners will possibly start to lose interest, as the creativity seems to have stalled around this mark.

Diehard fans should not be discouraged by all this, as there are definite moments in the album when you can see the maturity of Sondre Lerche has led to some new elements that you might find pleasing. “Words & Music” seems as if it was penned in the bouncing fashion of a classic Spoon song. The chorus, of course, brings back that memorable croon, but the overall bounce of the song is somewhat of a trip into new territory for Sondre. “Almight Moon” is similar in the fact that it seems radio to be an instant radio hit, not to see it doesn’t have that trademark touch of Lerche, but this is probably one of the more commercial tunes he’s written.

But, for all the decent moments, the most lasting impression of this album is that there isn’t really an impression left for you by the completion of the album.  In the past, he’s made some missteps, but he’s always had certain songs with a “wow” factor that have kept you salivating for more tunes, but this time around, the album seems devoid of genius.  Overall, Heartbeat Radio is a boring effort that lacks a lot of the panache of previous efforts by Sondre Lerche.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/05-heartbeat-radio.mp3]

Download: Sondre Lerche – Heartbeat Radio [MP3]

New Tunes from Sondre Lerche

sondre Sondre Lerche has been at it a long time, and he never really misses his mark when he goes into the studio.  He’s got a new album titled Heartbeat Radio coming out this September, and we’re sure you will all love it.  We’ve got the title track right here for you to sample.  And as always, it’s really about the wonderful vocals of Sondre, which continue to warm us over. 

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/05-heartbeat-radio.mp3]

Download: Sondre Lerche – Heartbeat Radio [MP3]