Sorren Maclean – Winter Stay Autumn (Middle Of Nowhere Recordings)
Two years in the making, Scotland’s Sorren Maclean, with his latest album seems to have been well worth the wait. Much of it is based around the delicate meanderings, twists, turns and pickings on a guitar, with the help of a piano, a multitude of stringed and bowed instruments and some brilliant vocal arrangements. Those strings provide some huge, swelling sounds, that appear to get larger with each passing second – as in opening track ‘Science or Fiction’ – until the very end when it’s back to those small and delicate guitar pickings and pleasant lead vocals, befitting of a sound such as this. Maclean’s voice is nice – very nice – but so far it isn’t an astounding voice. It has nothing that marks it out yet, as nice as it is. ‘Rows & Rows of Boxes’ picks up the pace a bit, the rhythm itself along very similar lines as Johnny Cash – sharp and steady but not overpowering. This time those pretty melodies are accompanied by chiming sounds provided by something I can’t quite identify, and its instrumental section is by far its best quality.
‘Aeroplane Leaving’ has some fabulous strings! It – and indeed the album itself so far – is the sort of thing that I’d imagine a 21st Century John Denver might have produced. It’s a little more upbeat, but at the same time, it isn’t massively out of place. It gets really big at a couple of points, with yet more of those strings again. Strings seem to add that “something else” don’t they? ‘Watch’ appears almost halfway through the album, and I have to admit I haven’t got the faintest idea what Hell is going on in the introduction. It sounds like something bashed out when a little hungover and your brain is empty of all thoughts and ideas. But it’s OK, it doesn’t last for too long; just long enough to startle and soon everything is back to normal, back to those mellow, but very pretty melodies picked out on guitar and a middle-eight involving many stringed and bowed things. A various points, all of those layers – mostly provided by those really quite stunning strings drown out Maclean’s voice almost entirely.
Maclean shakes things up a little in the form of ‘Old Pier’. The focus is solely on the vocals and is as simple as it could possibly get. It works incredibly well. The previous tracks and their gigantic swells of strings and vocal arrangements are lovely, but ‘Old Pier’ just proves that simple can have a far bigger impact, as excellently shown in ‘Bootlace Chases’. Sandwiched in the middle is ‘Way Back Home’ which sees the tempo turned up somewhat in comparison, and the return of those strings and big vocal arrangements. It’s hard to resist dancing just a little, too. The whole thing is wrapped up with the title track ‘Winter Stay Autumn’, which is easily the album’s most interesting track. It starts with those pleasant vocals from Sorren Maclean, guitar and a little piano, as well as those backing vocals, supporting instead of overwhelming this time. The problem here and now is that it’s all rather samey. But then we get almost three minutes in… Gradually things get far more interesting – and instrumental – as more and more is added in, increasing speed and resulting in a glorious mash of frenetic guitar pickings, strings and that piano again. It seems as though everything else on the album was pointing towards and pushing on to this. And what a way to end it?!
Just imagine playing this in the car when we finally get an actual summer… Sounds good, right?
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