Saturday, 7 July 2018

EP: Noel O'Brien - Sunken Lines

Noel O'Brien - Sunken Lines


Info: In 2015, Tipperary singer-songwriter Noel O'Brien appeared from nowhere with his debut EP, Yet to Come, it was a breath of fresh air at the time, and beyond enchanting, with GoldenPlec musing; "Remarkable...is the low-key nature of such a mature collection of songs from the relatively unknown singer-songwriter. Despite sparse instrumentation, O’Brien makes use of clever musicianship and recording techniques to create an ample, textured sound." Music blogger Keelan Foley also noted that; "On the surface it’s a well put-together 'easy-listening' record but digging that little bit deeper uncovers a wealth of creative intrigue and subtle talent." I myself was similarly taken in by the five-track opening salvo, and it was interesting to note that different people had decidedly different favourite tracks, there was no unanimous agreement on what the 'best' song was, and this was a great feature of the EP (my own being 'Reprise' for what it's worth).

Fast-forward almost exactly three years and O'Brien has returned with his second collection of tracks on his Sunken Lines EP. In the interim there's been a full-time and incessant dedication to gigging. The first thing you note is that it feels as though O'Brien has unburdened himself slightly, instantly noticeable on the opening self-titled track, it has the melody and rhythm of a Mic Christopher song, observational and contemplative lyrics delivered by his disarmingly soft vocal.

'Does It Sound...' leaves the door ajar for us to come in and sit against the wall whilst the protagonist bares all from across the room. The intricacy of his guitar-playing on full display, it takes a minute and a bit for the penny to drop for the listener, but there's a genuine sheet of comfort that slowly drops over your ears from his voice and offhand picking. Atmospheres and stainless steel vibrato pop up from the fret board like bouncing drops on 'For What You've Done', a little hint of Elliott Smith in the vocal delivery, "You're never gonna be a chosen one, for what you've done". A scorned lover or a more complex betrayal in a personal relationship is posited. 

Final track 'Sirens' brings us right back to the magic of Noel O'Brien's debut EP, one thing I hoped I'd hear on this second release was the 'haunt' that he brought to the table so well previously. Floydian background sounds add a whimsical mystery to his slow-draw inhaled vocal, it's quite majestic. I used to have so many preconceptions about the singer-songwriter genre, but along with many of his peers, artists like O'Brien have created something entirely new and engaging. Casting off old stereotypes and reaching deep within their creative selves to conjure up songs and moments that are enchanting and ultimately memorable. Indeed, I often wondered what he was up to after that first solo release back in 2015 as time went by, turns out he was just patiently crafting new magic.


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