Falling Deeper Under a Spell…
Anna C gets 3 wishes

RICHMOND FONTAINE- Thirteen cities

Imagine jumping in a big and battered Dodge Charger with one or two of your fellow losers and driving the dusty road from Oregon to Tucson, Arizona, drifting through countless cities and noting the various other failures at life you see along the way (think "Thelma and Louise" without the dodgy perms and murder charges). This is the soundtrack. The seventh studio album from the very observant wordsmith that is Willy Vlautin and his merry band (featuring guest appearances from members of Calexico and Giant Sands, naturally), "Thirteen Cities" boasts songs for the lonely and songs for the slacker; hell, there are even songs for the lonely slacker, each one featuring Richmond Fontaine's trademark wonderful imagery and inspirational instrumentation, forming a desolate yet romantic reference to society today and how it has left us full of regret and wondering what we are doing with our lives.

So obviously not very cheerful stuff but perhaps quite thought-provoking. Dark characters play a messed up cast of oddballs who lurk in every verse-chorus-verse, some sounding as cynical as The Shins or Bright Eyes (in the lively jaunt through sad adulthood "Moving back home #2"), some like Dylan ("I fell into painting houses"), some beautifully uplifting and daring a freedom that can only be dreamt about when staring up at a cloudless blue sky (in the gorgeous fluttering guitar work in "El Tiradito" and "Ballad of Dan Fanta"), all essentially about growing up but not really wanting to. Each track makes you look yourself square in the eye. It all sounds very deep, doesn't it? Well, that's because it is pretty much is. If you're looking for variety, true enough- you might not find it here. But if good, strong storytelling and the American way is your thing, then look no further. Because it doesn't get much better than this.

Released February 5th, 2007


KIERAN MCMAHON- Falling deeper under a spell

A boy growing up in '70's Belfast dreams of a way out and finds it with a guitar in a cold garage connected to the house he shares with ten other members of his family. The result is an admirable introspective of what is, at times anyway, a rather melancholy life, put to a mostly acoustic-pop backing track (with appearances from strings, woodwind and vibraphone building up an undeniably lush and mature sound). And, after getting backing from David Gray's manager, Mr. McMahon, now based in Germany, even sold some of his belongings to finance his musical career and this amount of dedication and ambition only makes me wish I appreciated his debut effort more.
Because, despite the heartfelt emotion from the title track, a theme that continues throughout, his vocal is unfortunately, for me, the kind of monotone voice that makes even the loveliest of arrangements sound bland ( I never was a fan of Tindersticks). Which is a shame. Because there are some lovely arrangements, at times albeit a bit too winsome for me, myself preferring the more upbeat numbers of which there are frustratingly few, or the slightly cooler and sparkling tracks which for some reason feature towards the end of the album (the lovely "Too far out" particularly caught my, er, ear). Yes, the orchestration on a collection of songs I can only describe as pleasant evokes feelings of stargazing and wonderment. It's just a shame that no-one told the man to keep quiet while I was doing it.


STORY ONE- Disposable

Story One play a kind of melodic rock which they compare to Muse, Sebadoh and Doves. Don't be fooled. They principally stand accused of sounding like a grungey version of Nickelback. Which obviously hasn't hurt them much, at least not in the USA, where they have played Johnny Depp's Viper Room to a good crowd, so it is told. Having said that, they are still relatively unknown outside Nottingham (where they all, of course, met at university). At best, this is basically rather sickly power rock, strapping young men who belt them out (apart from the obligatory mournful ballad "Clementine" and the pondering "Disposable") the singer even making a fiddle look sexy. Though this is not enough. The darker and more atmospheric "Delhi Funeral" ends the album and caught my attention much more than the previous ten songs, sounding like a more impressive Snow Patrol. Apart from that, the most exciting thing I can tell you about Story One is that, if their bassist was a weapon, he would be a knuckleduster. It's well done but it's been done, if you know what I'm saying. Still, don't take my word for it. You can download the entire lot for free by visiting their website. The artwork is really very nice…


Anna C