Friday, 27 May 2011

reviews: the travelling band, dustin o'halloran, waldner

The Travelling Band - Screaming Is Something

The Travelling Band - Screaming is Something (***)

Manchester’s The Travelling Band have horizons both narrow and broad: musically, they’re content to operate within parameters so well-established they might as well be carved in mahogany, but spiritually, they’re gazing out over vast imagined prairies. The quintet seem well-placed to pick up where London-by-way-of-Australia’s Grand Drive (now seemingly out to pasture) left off, with second album Screaming Is Something (and it really would be in such genial company) delivering ten beautifully-played tracks born of the North West but with hearts heading further westward still. Its relative understatedness could prove a boon in the current musical climate – while it’s nominal genre of folk-americana-etc is ascendant thanks to Mumford and Sons et al, The Travelling Band compare favourably by eschewing the bombast of its current figureheads. But it also proves an obstacle; every track makes for a pleasant listen, but few imprint themselves with any conviction in the memory.

Out 7th June

Dustin O'Halloran - Vorleben

Dustin O'Halloran - Vorleben (***)

Vorleben will be a tough nut to advertise: “If you buy just one new Dustin O’Halloran album this year” the hyperbole will confidently begin, before stumbling. “it has to be, er…” – well, not Vorleben, as it happens, because O’Halloran already stole its thunder with the superb Lumiere in February.

So while there's absolutely nothing wrong with this live collection of solo piano pieces (the title of which pointedly translates as ‘past life’), it can’t hold a candle to its composer’s other 2011 effort, which is comfortably the more rewarding and innovative listen; by comparison, Vorleben lacks atmosphere, though presumably not for those present in Berlin’s Grunewald Church for its recording.

For anyone planning to throw caution to the wind and purchase two Dustin O’Halloran albums this year, however, Vorleben is unlikely to disappoint, its distillation of the stripped-back style of his early recordings further confirmation of O’Halloran’s prodigious talent.

Out 6th June

Waldner - Found and Lost

Waldner - Found & Lost (**)

When your voice is as prominent in the mix as David Waldner’s is on Found and Lost, it’s difficult to disguise lyrical faux-pas. Musically, Waldner is an efficient melody maker, with each track boasting infectious hooks, but the earnestness is less appealing in verbal form.

Opener Going Up Against Goliath encapsulates the imbalance: musically, the biggest complaint is over-polished production, but lyrically? “Have you ever had to fight for what you thought was right?” Waldner starts unpromisingly, before placing a friendly hand on the downtrodden addressee’s shoulder. “Well just because there’s no one else believes in you this day, doesn’t mean that it’s always going to be this way.”

The asinine platitudes risk evoking Daniel Powter, and no one wants that abomination in their “If you liked this, try these” column. Mull Historical Society is a more generous comparison, but Waldner is some way off matching Colin MacIntyre’s successes.

Out Now

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