Saturday, 19 December 2015

Year by year: 2014


My love for this hasn't waned one bit, and so the words won't change either. As written on the 12th of August, 2014:

Lo-Fi Lullabies is a special album, I don’t think it’s physically possible not to hear that. It’s literally soaked through: in painfully honest lyrics, intimate atmosphere, subtle melodies, John’s delicately frail vocals. There’s a word ‘depression’ hanging over these 10 songs like a wet cobweb. But somehow this is not a depressing album. On Lo-Fi Lullabies, depression is merely a musical language. And an art form.

I first heard John Moore on Black Box Recorder’s “The Art Of Driving”, which he provocatively half-whispered in duet with Sarah Nixey. Cofounded with Luke Haines, the band played the kind of witty, cynical pop (‘pop’ as in actually ‘popular’, what with the unlikely but highly calculated success of “The Facts Of Life”) that is like a wet dream for any intelligent music lover. It’s only later that I found out about John Moore’s career in The Jesus And Mary Chain and a couple of largely (I’m being generous) unknown solo albums.

The songs that make up Lo-Fi Lullabies were written in dismal, crisis-fuelled mid-90s, prior to Black Box Recorder. And Christ are they good. The sound and the vibe wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with John’s music. It’s elegant and stripped-down and it never gets monotonous because of the sheer quality of songwriting. There’s a little Leonard Cohen here (I can very much imagine hearing the waltzy “Path Of Least Resistance” somewhere between “Suzanne” and “Master Song”), a little of that intimate feel you could hear on latest album by Peter Astor (I can’t recommend Songbox enough). However, the reference points will not get you anywhere: this is simply too sincere and personal not to be unique.

Lyrics might be the first thing you notice (try the final verse of “When I’m Dead” or the chorus of “Kisses And Scars” or just about anything else here), but I wouldn’t separate them from the melodies or John’s vocal performances. Lo-Fi Lullabies is basically its own world. To the extent that I almost don’t want to talk about individual songs. Let’s just mention that vocals rarely get any more honest and heartbreaking than on “Clouds Roll By”, as well as the fact that John certainly knows his way around a clever one-line chorus. As for the sound – it is, like I say, very stripped down. There’s a raw but romantic bedroom quality to these songs (check out the album title again) that, thankfully, does not disappear when John adds strings or a bass line or even a touch of harmonica. 

Oh and the final four-song stretch is frankly phenomenal. Etc., etc. Lo-Fi Lullabies is a masterclass in thoughtful, articulate songwriting. I’m really gasping for superlatives here. So far it’s my favourite album of the year by roughly a country mile. If I considered this album andFloral Tributes as a single-package release, I’d give it a ten. But then it’s art, so who cares about fucking numbers anyway.