Adrian Crowley, Season Of The Sparks
Gracefully understated stories of loss and yearning
This Dublin singer/songwriter's fifth album sees him forsaking generic acoustic guitar accompaniments and instead merging his stentorian baritone with quivering organs, pianos, strings and to create rumbling sense of grandeur and melancholy. It's his knack for restraint that makes his songs brood so intensely. In short, they sneak up on you. They may be epic, darkly cinematic stories of loss and yearning, but you only fully realize this after they've subtly bedded in.
Although he's been compared to Nick Drake and Tim Buckley, there's a touch of Bill Callahan and Robert Wyatt in Crowley's graceful stylings. He consistently subverts the obvious, blooming from monochrome to technicolor with repeated listens. This may be the album which spreads his name — to date, he's best recognized as an honorary member of Scotland's Fence Collective, or the man whose praises Ryan Adams songs. His lyrics are poetic and rural, covering the beauty of nature, animals and the countryside, and he allows his symbolism to develop at its own pace. He never rushes; the music swells ever so gently until any slight shift feels huge. His voice — as low as Richard Hawley and as resonant as Johnny Cash — makes a virtue of its weathered humility.
"Summer Haze Parade" flickers with regret, borrowing a motif from "Strawberry Fields Forever," while the chorus of "The Wishing Seat" gradually embeds itself in your brain. "The Beekeeper's Wife" is exquisitely arranged, although an interpretation of the late Ivor Cutler's "Squeeze Bees" feels rather incongruous. "Horses Like To Dream" has a haughty reticence worthy of Red House Painters or Low. As the nights draw in and the temperature drops, this is an album to inspire rewarding reflection and to warm the marrow.