Adrian Crowley

Fri, Sep 14, 2012, 01:00

CD OF THE WEEK: I See Three Birds FlyingChemikal Underground

Adrian Crowley has released five increasingly successful albums; 2007’s Long Distance Swimmer was nominated for the Choice Music Prize Irish Album of the Year, and Crowley eventually claimed the accolade for 2009’s stunning Season of the Sparks. It’s album No 6, however, that really cements the Dubliner’s reputation as one of our finest songwriters.

Among Crowley’s strongest qualities is an innate ability to match his articulate lyricism with sympathetic melodies and arrangements. Both elements combine to summon extraordinarily vivid imagery, best heard on the gorgeous slow-drip of Fortune Teller Song and on the radiant The Mock Wedding. The latter’s opening line alone – “Through the open door she walks beside me into the winter sun” – is devastatingly simple, yet paints such a lucid scene when paired with the carefree melody of woodwind and acoustic guitar.

Equally evocative is the melancholic journey taken through Dublin’s “city of ghosts” told on From Champions Avenue to Misery Hill, while an attempt at writing “the saddest song in the world” (The Saddest Song) was presumably deemed a satisfactory failure, considering the soft, sudden rush of strings that brings streams of colour and vibrancy.

Musically, Crowley’s predominantly gentle demeanour is often lifted by the addition of a full band at various points throughout the album. The despondent At the Starlight Hotel is given a welcome kick by a drum beat; album standout September Wine is almost poppy in comparison with some of the more elemental tracks. The dark balladry of Juliet, I’m in Flames subtly builds to a weightless, dream-like conclusion.

Occasionally, as heard on the full-sounding Lady Lazarus, rich orchestration augments his trademark sonorous vocals (and yes, the Callahan and Cohen comparisons are still accurate).

Whether Crowley has had his confidence buoyed in recent years, or whether he’s just settled comfortably into his own skin, he has created an exquisite album that is reminiscent of sinking into a warm bath: a completely immersive experience that soothes, salves and clears the mind.

Download tracks:The Saddest Song, September Wine

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