Plumbiferous Media

Englishman – Englishman

Dec 2nd 2010
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Englishman - EnglishmanEnglishman
Score: 79

Singer-songwriter Andrew English, of Lexington, KY, released his first, self-titled, album as frontman of Englishman last month, following his 2009 EP Taxidermy. On Englishman, English shows himself to be an able songsmith, combining strong vocals with carefully constructed instrumentals to create a variety of interesting tracks. All together, Englishman makes a solid debut album, and one that’s certainly worth listening to.

English’s voice manages to be both strong and emotionally invested in the music, which provides Englishman with an impressive vocal backbone. English is clearly skilled at what he does – small tonal changes that perfect the mix between music and vocals are common, and the elements of the music are accordingly well combined. English does an excellent job shifting his voice to match the tone of the music, though that’s not always a huge shift, as Englishman tends to stay within a fairly tight range of styles. Good lyrics certainly contribute to this vocal success – even for an excellent vocalist, mediocre lyrics are hard to work with.

Lyrically, Englishman is generally quite well constructed: a mixture of metaphor and vivid imagery. A sort of barely concealed desperation seems to seethe under the surface of every word, giving each line an urgency that gives the album considerable weight. Whether English sings “The light’s on / In the house with the pumpkin eyes / I labor / Just to see you well before the fire dies” on “Boy T. Rex” or “From a ship that is old / And under repair / I can only reach land when the weather is fair / There’s a light in the fog / And it glows like our eyes / Just a little bit blue” on “Classically Trained,” he always manages to introduce a sense of wonder that is only helped by the delicacy of his tone. On the other hand, however, some of Englishman‘s lyrics don’t quite make sense – think “Pet Cactus”‘s “I don’t want to grow up just to be a pet cactus” – but, since they’re still subject to the full effect of English’s vocals and surrounded by lyrics which do make sense, they’re prevented from doing any real damage.

As an unavoidable point, English sounds an absolutely stunning amount like Colin Meloy. That, however, is where similarities more or less cease. Along with an entirely different sort of lyrics, Englishman certainly does not provide a vastly orchestrated sound, opting instead for a very pronounced acoustic guitar and some tactfully inserted percussion, along with a few extra effects for good measure. This difference is both good and bad. Obviously, nobody wants a Decemberists look-alike, but at the same time, English does have a habit of overwhelming the instrumentals or singing in a tone that would seem to contradict the point being made by the rest of the song.

Then again, there are a good many tracks where English does manage to calm his voice down somewhat, minimizing the harsh, nearly-whining timbre to produce a significantly smoother, yet still quite rich sound. This is where the album truly shines. Disjointed and self-contradictory tracks are replaced by a beautiful, fully functional whole. These are the tracks in which one is readily willing to ignore any lyrical flaws or other minor faults, and these are the tracks that make the album worthwhile.

There are a number of elements of Englishman that must be praised. Andrew English is clearly a very talented individual in a myriad of ways, as is, if perhaps not quite necessary, certainly extremely helpful in the singer-songwriter profession. While it’s hard to pick out any tracks that demonstrate complete perfection, tracks are at minimum, enjoyable, and more often than not, significantly more than that. The recording quality of the album is notably excellent, and the album as a whole leaves an entirely pleasant impression. Englishman clearly has significant potential, and Englishman is a great album, not only for its content, but for what it foreshadows.

“Boy T. Rex” from Englishman

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