Since 1999, Adrian Crowley has evolved into one of Ireland’s most beguiling and acclaimed talents, scooping the Choice Music Prize for Irish album of the year in 2009.
The Watchful Eye of the Stars is Crowley’s ninth album, and third for the esteemed Scottish record label Chemikal Underground, which first brought Arab Strap and Mogwai to the world’s attention.
Crowley hails from Galway’s city of the tribes via the sun-kissed isle of Malta, and he has seriously upped the ante for this album, but he’s always been ambitious and keen to work with the best.
His second album, When You Are Here You Are Family, was recorded by Steve Albini in Chicago in 2002. In 2017, Crowley teamed up with Thomas Bartlett in New York for Dark Eyed Messenger, while in 2018 he collaborated with filmmaker Niall McCann on a beautiful feature entitled The Science of Ghosts. Now John Parish, fresh from steering the ship for Dry Cleaning’s recent debut album, does the production honours, and even plays on the record.
Northbound Stowaway opens Crowley’s latest collection on familiar ground, but with added strings courtesy of Crash Ensemble and backing vocals, a swoony introduction to a distinguished and diverse album.
Jim Barr of Portishead contributes double bass and engineered parts of the album in Bristol. This all widens the scope and profoundly informs The Watchful Eye of Stars, helping to shape possibly Crowley’s most accomplished and best album yet.
Crowley has always been a fascinating lyricist, creating startling narratives in his songs. Crow Song revisits the memory of his brother bringing home an injured crow, which they managed to nurse back to full health. “Little bird of sunshine, O, tell me of the things you’ve seen,” Crowley sings. “Out over the rooftops beyond the veil of my dreams. The weavers of disaster spinning at their looms.”
Take Me Driving concludes proceedings with a memorable refrain, “Breaking hearts and traffic lights”, repeated until the end.
In raising the bar yet again with a little help from his friends, John Parish, Crash Ensemble and Portishead,Crowley solidifies his status as one of our finest songwriters of the past 20 years, finding his stride and flexing an increasingly singular voice nine albums into a remarkable career.