XL Recordings - Beggars Group, 2005
On "Cripple Crow" this rapidly emerging singer-songwriter basks in the sunshine for a sprawling album of sparklingly-arranged psychedelic folk. His distinctive vocals have the fragility and clarity of Nick Drake and Tim Buckley, and this time they're backed with a wider choice of sounds and styles than just the resonant acoustic guitar of his previous work. Acoustic instruments, cello, flute, varied percussion, doodling psychedelic guitars, and a choir of bright-eyed backing singers and cronies are all used with subtlety, and captured with a recording perfectionism. It recreates, with warmth, a late-60's atmosphere of flower-children and uninhibited creativity.
Like any good singer-songwriter he has instantly accessible and well crafted tunes in plenty, a small selection of which include the stomping "Long Haired Child", the anti-war singalong "Heard Somebody Say", and the two-sided "Little Boys", which shifts in the middle from Bowie ballad to twisted 50s pop. Some of his most delicious melodies are saved for Spanish-language numbers like the layered "Santa Maria Da Feira" and the tinglingly cello-backed "Inaniel". The lyrics are also completely his own, from peace sentiments as to-the-point as any John Lennon slogan ("It's simple, we don't want to kill") to endearingly staring-eyed freakiness ("out of my toes, my little blue baby grows") and quite a strange view of children. Though at 75 minutes, it's far too long, and a few songs could have been sheared from the album while retaining its hippy enthusiasm and diversity.
March 16, 2006