Ciaran Lavery: Sweet Decay review – mining darkness to unearth gems

Sweet Decay
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Artist: Ciaran Lavery
Genre: Singer / Songwriter
Label: All Points

Sometimes you have to mine the darkness to unearth the gemstones. Ciaran Lavery is no stranger to either, with his second album, Let Bad In – a meditation on love, life and loss delivered suitably lugubriously – winning the 2016 Northern Ireland Music Prize.

Its follow-up sees the small-town Antrim man framing his songs in a similar setting, although the addition of numerous guest musicians, including Saint Sister, adds volume and verve to the track list.

Many of these songs retain the Springsteen-like quality to Lavery's sound that was liberally strewn through his last album (particularly audible here on songs like 13, Bones 4 Blood and Two Days in Savannah), while others, like the laidback strum of To Chicago and the earthy, breezy rumble of Everything Is Made to Last, lift the tone.

There is desolation in spades, too – particularly on the evocative Beast at My Door, which addresses his mental-health struggles – but Lavery's finely crafted lyric sheet, influenced by literary greats like Carver and Salinger, means that no emotion is wasted.


Coupled with the smoky quiver of his voice and the slow-burning atmosphere of his musical palette, it may just be his best work yet.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times