Andrew Vincent - Rotten Pear
Chris Tapley 01/02/2010
When it comes to critical analysis of music I often feel as though most albums are only as effective as the emotions which they stir within me as a listener, and generally albums aim for one consistent tone throughout. A large percentage of my collection is downbeat and melancholy, with a few slices of happiness and the odd bit of rage tucked away in there. Those are generally the albums that sit on the shelf though, the ones which tend to spend more time in my cd player are those which manage to pull me in several directions at once, whose overall feeling is an amalgam of emotions. This is one of the main strengths of Andrew Vincent's fifth solo album, he manages to thread together a collection of songs which embrace loneliness, frustration and heartbreak whilst remaining intrinsically optimistic.
After abandoning his backing band The Pirates the music here is more sparse than any of Vincent's previous work and this helps to achieve these myriad feelings primarily through the lyrics as well as the alternation between delicate acoustic tracks and more upbeat surf pop type numbers; these disparate musical personas reflecting the two emotional reactions which this album provokes. Opener Hi Lo is a fragile acoustic track whose sweet melodies and hushed vocals belie a darker tale of drug addiction. However this subtlety in terms of lyrical themes is balanced with the next track on which the lyrics could potentially come off as very schmaltzy and amateurish in lesser hands with the likes of “I don't want nobody else, no I want you”. Vincent delivers them with such effortless charm and sincerity that this isn't a problem though. Even tracks which fail to sparkle, such as Sleep to Dream, are packed with enough verve and some lovely turns of phrase like “You've gotta sleep to dream, but dreams are all you're ever after”.
There is a bit of an extended lull in the second half of the album: the songs are still striving for that same tone but they lack the craft and subsequently feel a little contrived. They are still a pleasant enough listen but as Vincent's focus temporarily drifts away the key lyrical themes that he tackles so well elsewhere they can feel a bit listless and hollow by comparison. Thankfully the closing two tracks give the album the finish it deserves though. Rotten Pear sounds home made but displays a brilliant level of song writing ability and a sincere emotion which recalls Daniel Johnston at his best, a comparison confirmed by the lyrics which are willfully tender and naïve of heart; “I'm growing a heart and I'm never gonna cut it down”. The album closes with a cover of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love, and one which is a welcome change of pace given the ubiquity of The Futureheads version. It's in keeping with the rest of the album by stripping the song back to it's most basic elements, completely removing the percussion and delivering it instead with just breathy vocals and arrhythmic synths which make for a mesmerizing rendition that cuts to the grizzly resonance of the lyrics.
Similarly to when listening to this I also feel torn in multiple directions in terms of allocating a mark to this record. This album isn't breaking any new ground or pushing any boundaries, but not everything has to. This is likable emotive indie folk which when it's at it's best is executed to near perfection but and in the moments where it doesn't have the same impact it's a pleasant listen, and sometimes that's enough.