Born in London, raised in Scotland, Greece and France and living in Los Angeles, singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch is a man of many landscapes. In his self-released 2006 debut album, Time Without Consequence, Murdoch presents a varied array of dusty folk and American bluesy sounds that extend for nearly an hour and seem to reflect these experiences , but in Towards The Sun, his thirty five minute showcase is surprisingly too long and devoid of the variety and soundscapes found in his previous release. While Murdoch’s lyrics have most certainly matured, there are only fleeting moments where his song writing has developed.
‘Towards The Sun’ is a disappointing opening track. The looped root notes do nicely marinate with Murdoch’s romantic, pastoral lyrics and earthy vocal tones, “the water is so cold and heavy on my mind, I dreamed of walking with you but I fell behind”, but the actual vocal melody is stale and lifeless. The following track, ‘At Your Door’, contrasts using a more up-beat pace and a promising guitar melody, but just as a cacophony of horns nicely build a crescendo, the song suddenly ends.
‘Slow Revolution’ and ‘Some Day Soon’, however, mark where the album first sprouts life. Murdoch is at the peak of his poetical writing in the former; his omniscient narration evoking strong images, “Martin was bright as he stood up and sang in the choir, his hearts all in pieces, was breaking, his head was on fire, they took him from that place and they buried him deep in the ground, out with the light, quiet the sound” and residual political messages.
There is (at last!) real instrumental texture in ‘Some Day Soon’ with a thumping bass drum, gentle banjo, chiming piano and whispery female backing vocals supporting Murdoch while he yearns for his father’s company. The song is one of the highlights of the album, alongside the closing track, ‘Crinan Wood’ which features a simple, crackling-fire side ukulele melody with Kelly Pratt (Beirut) and Kyle Resnick (The National) carrying the weight of the song’s excitement through warm brass tones, which weave beautifully between Murdoch’s stories of love, loss and nostalgia.
Murdoch’s vocals in the preceding song, ‘The Light (Her Hands Were Leaves)’ mirror the honesty of his tone found in ‘Some Day Soon’ and similar familial themes also exist, “Brother how you shine/Mother you are a bird.” The song does, however, drag musically. Towards the end of the album, epic guitar delay and ebow sounds introduce ‘Through The Dark’ but are not allowed to grow with Murdoch’s plucked strings and mid-tenor Celtic hums, and this would have added some much-needed colour overall.
Murdoch’s lyrics remain strong throughout the album, but his music unfortunately lacks the refreshing variety found in his previous releases. There are no real signs of musical development or experimentalism, just feelings of stunted growth.
Released on 4th April 2011 courtesy of City Slang Records.