What does it sound like?:
I have already written rather gushingly about the Heartworn Highways gig at the Betsey Trotwood last weekend, and one of the highlights of a gig full of great moments was discovering Louis Brennan, an Irish, London based songwriter.
I ordered his album from his Bandcamp page (on CD, because I’m old fashioned like that) straight afterwards and have had it on repeat play every since. I honestly can’t remember the last time an album made such an instant impression on me to the extent that nothing else musical is quite hitting the spot at the moment. There is no justice when someone of Brennan’s skills is so obscure when others of no noticeable talent draw a huge audience (what scientists refer to as the Sheeran Paradox).
The first thing which will strike first-time listeners is the voice, a deep baritone which sweeps lower to huge dramatic effect when necessary. It put me in mind of Johnny Cash or Lee Hazelwood, and the video I posted under the Heartworn Highways review drew a comparison to Jake Thackray, throw in a hint of John Grant too with a suggestion of Leonard Cohen and you’ll be getting close.
The next thing that will strike them is the lyrics, which paint the bleakest of pictures with mordant humour. Opening number Airport Hotel finds a man feeling wretched in the said establishment, his male lover having just left after clearing out the minibar.
‘I could be better than this.
The promise of suburbia, the widening abyss,
When I’m laying in the bathtub with the razor to my wrist
And a list of explanations she’s gonna give my kids’
It’s a situation Ed Sheeran has never tackled in song, or if he has he kept that one quiet
That is not to say that there is nothing here for those who don’t pay attention to the words. Airport Hotel’s lyrical drama is matched by it’s swooping choruses, and London is as catchy and hook laden as anything I’ve heard this year, Best of all is Silence, the original song he played at the Betsey Trotwood and the one which first grabbed my attention. To minimal picked accompaniment Brennan gives a wry, bruised romantic’s take on contemporary life where others
’… are confident enough about your presence in the world
To extend your neuroses to your little boy and girl.
Now she’s standing in the mirror at eleven years old
And sees her body as an object that society will mould.’
Louis Brennan then, the most exciting new songwriter I’ve heard for a very long time. I’ll post a couple of videos in the comments, and the link to his Bandcamp page. He also playing at the Green Note in Camden next Tuesday (5 March, opening set for Thickets).
What does it all *mean*?
There isn’t much use looking to mainstream media for the sort of new discoveries I enjoy these days and I don’t have the time to trawl through the web for gems like this. I’m just glad when I find them.
Goes well with…
An introverted mood and a safety razor.
Might suit people who like…
Think classic 60s and 70s singer-songwriters