Richard Walters hits the ground running with ‘King of Leaves’; the first track, and my personal favourite, on his third album, Regret Less, recorded on his own Oxford-based label, Beard Museum. It sounds exactly like that – running, I mean – but running to something; a new beginning, a more liberated self, rather than from a past that’s hunting you down and holding you back. This album, as the title would suggest, is about just that and the first track’s lyrics are a good introduction: Regret Less is about emancipation.
The thing is; the emotion encountered in the rest of the album is considerably contained. The subtleties are calculated and, as desperately as his heart wants to burst out of his chest, he has too much control over himself to just let go and scream, which creates a kind of unsatisfying contradiction between subject and medium. This kind of discretion is applauded in a Guardian review of his 2009 album The Animal, however, the subject that is the focus of this one could have benefited from a little more “rocking out” to really feel like he means it.
There many layers within the songs, which despite sounding rich and velvety – sometimes, less really is more. The vague grunginess – an effect that always manages to sound at least a little bit rebellious – of ‘Walk Softly Stranger’ provides some brief relief that feels like running for the bus only to realise once you’ve sat down on it that you got on the one on the wrong side of the road.
Cue ‘Tomorrow Begins Today’, the concept it explores is conveyed a lot better in other songs on the album, which avoid sounding quite so clichéd. The following song, ‘Next Time I See You, captures a sort of sad nostalgia that one might feel on a train journey, the kind of feelings you feel when you’re in transit; as soon as you step onto the platform, off of the train, it’s gone. Just like the girl’s hair in the song.
By now I’m wondering where the upbeat vibe has gone.
The final two songs make a complimentary pair, though. ‘Snowdrifts’ is pretty heartbreaking. It’s about transformations, breaking lovers’ and mothers’ hearts simply by growing up and falling out of touch with who the people around you really are. It is a relatable concept and a nice short song that captures a sentiment beautifully meanwhile ‘Regretless’ encourages you not to regret those feelings: it is what it is; you cannot live your life for another. A nice message to finish the album on though if Walters had arranged the tracks according to a different rule, the impact of songs such as ‘King of Leaves’, with its pace and optimism, could have been more strongly felt, for example, if it had been the last song on the album.
This is worth a listen, if only to hear how Walter’s style has progressed over the past few years, but there is more than that: Regret Less – Makes you Feel and think.
Released on 15th October 2012 by Beard Museum