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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