Let’s do this!
The key word here may be delicacy. Everything is well-crafted to be delicate and beautiful in a tender, discrete way. Nice gentle emotional singing, a couple of tasteful guitars that play as many different roles as there are songs, showing masterful grasp of this small art of 20th century popular guitar playing. Coming up with simple voice and acoustic guitar songs isn’t as easy as it seems, and you still have to factor in songs that just don’t work., the filler the make up for at least half the length of most mainstream releases, and this alone goes to show how hard it is to actually write a simple song.
There are no fillers here though – and even though the first track might be the most catchy, the very best song is possibly “River Song”, the second to last. None of the tracks have hushed melodies, careless guitars or distracted singing. You can feel the love for the music-making craft in each song. Absolutely none of these songs is progressive, experimental, dabbles with exotic instruments or whatever, but in a discrete way, this album is astonishing in its exuberance, because the setup is always the same, but the songs are so different, and that is, of course, much more impressive than having songs that sound different because one has a a theremin and the other has space rock synths.
But the simplest way to describe this is by simply stating that it’s beautiful. It’s so discrete and simple, you don’t really have to think, you can just relax and dabble in the prettiness. Actually, the best way to listen to this might be to sit back and try to understand the lyrics like he was talking to you. If you are inclined to do so, you have a plate full. Some of the lyrics in this album are great. “Thunder” is my favorite, but I can’t really say it’s the best. “Wings” might get the title. “Fields of Wheat” is the odd one of the bunch, less confessional and more freaked out.
Enough with Winter, moving on to…
Spring sees a growth of grasp and ambition. The first three songs are angrier and thei lyrics are of a completely different nature from the ones in Winter, something like the stream of consciousness of Winter’s “Fields of Wheat” times a thousand (not really, maybe times 3). Dirt goes back to form though, and with a little bit of something new, a country feel in reference to the lyrics of the song, a nice little emotional song about missing a dead person who used to play country tunes. As for new somethings, there’s a piano on the first track as well, and it works perfectly in the song.
Well, this album was sounding more like winter than the previous album, so it closes off with Spring, which is kind of corny in it’s idea of “writing a song about spring” with a 19th century romantic poetry feel, specially in the first verses, but in the end works fairly well and closes the album with dignity.
So, the delicate guitar work on Winter is kind of gone, giving way to other guitar experiments. It’s easy to give too much importance to fingerstyle guitar ways, which are gone in the stronger tracks, and ending up not noticing well thought-of chord progressions, which were there in Winter and are here as well. That and melody-crafting are still difficult arts that are present here in a masterful way.
So, finally Summer, released two days ago. Well, Winter was incredibly beautiful and Spring was something special, but I feel tempted to say Summer is the best one yet. Even if Winter might still be someone’s favorite of the bunch, in Summer the new feel and elements of Spring have matured. The new elements here would be vocal harmonization and, in the guitar work, a middle ground between the gentleness of Winter and the roughness of Spring in a couple of tracks. There’s something like maybe a cello on Trust also, maybe a guitar played with a violin bow or a synth? Well, there’s an organ on Beachwood Coffin as well, but everything is very discrete.
But back to why Summer might just be the best one. The lyrics are still confessional and poetic, but a bit less awkward. Everything that was already great stayed as is. Actually, there was no change in the melodic style since Winter, and that’s a good thing, this stuff is still evolving and is yet to deliver its best tracks, and I’ll tell you why:
Because “Trust” might be the best track in the three albums. It is catchy and deep at the same time, the guitar work is gentle and pretty, the vocal harmonization is hauntingly beautiful (rivaling the first track), but the killer feature is the melody, which shows a natural build-up of meaning that emanates from both music and lyrics (“are you afraid to put your trust on me?”). An album with 6 or 7 of these would easily be my Album of the Year. It makes “Beachwood Coffin” look like a filler, and that’s a great track as well.
Great album, if you like Nick Drake and folk in general, download this right now, it’s free as in beer.