Published on August 17th, 2011 | by Aaron0
First Impressions: Fionn Regan – 100 Acres of Sycamore
Fionn Regan is a rare musical treasure. From Bray, Co. Wicklow in Ireland he is a magical sort of folk musician who manages to both breath new life into a well worn genre and also be the epitome of it at the same time.
His debut album The End of History was critically adored and for very good reason. Incredibly crafted guitar rhythms mixed with both dreamy lyrics and heartbreaking tones created a jackpot of songs. A Mercury Music Prize nomination raised no eyebrows when it was announced.
His second effort The Shadow of an Empire came after a long 4 years of recording, marked by a rocky relationship with American label Lost Highway Records. This resulted in a never-to-be-heard album being shelved indefinitely and Fionn being dropped. However, The Shadow of an Empire bears no marks of this trouble and while not as well received as his first album was a brave change of direction with more electric sounds and a harder edge (the edge that Lost Highway deemed unsuitable).
I was happy to see that this third installment comes just a year and half later and with Regan on record as saying it was recorded in one week, he obviously had a much easier time of things. But will it turn out to be as good as previous offerings? Let’s see as I review the album in live time. 1 play through, thoughts as I get them.
1) 100 Acres of Sycamore
Oooh, interesting. He hasn’t really used strings before. It’s a lovely arrangement too. I like what it does just before the two minute mark. A more ominous song than I was expecting.
2) Sow Mare Bitch Vixen
“Sow, mare, bitch, vixen, I’ve always had a thing for dangerous women”. Yeah. Just… yeah. I f**king love this guy. Beautiful song. Really good.
3) The Horses Are Asleep
There is a much richer sound on this album to anything he has done before. And there is a confidence there, too. It really is a growth musically. I’m very impressed so far.
4) The Lake District
This is a nice song but it doesn’t connect with me much. I think the pace might be a bit too slow and soft and could have used a bit more “umph” in places. Or, you know, maybe a chorus or something. Yeah, I think that’s my problem. No chorus.
5) Dogwood Blossom
Pass. Seriously. Snoozed right through it.
6) For a Nightingale
Thank god the noise level went up for this one. Much better. A lovely summery tune. Summery is a word, right? My spell-checker tells me so.
7) List of Distractions
I’m always sceptical of the use of echo on vocal tracks. I find it distracting. I understand this is a personal taste but at this point I’m looking for anything to talk about. We went from a very strong start to quite a mediocre middle. “List of Distractions” is an ironic song title at this stage of the album.
8) 1st Day of May
I’m struggling to say anything other than “another nice slow song”.
9) North Star Lover
Let me tell you now. If I was a teenager, I’d love this record. If I had just been dumped and wanted to wallow in my room, I’d bloody love this record. Mainly because this record couldn’t hurt or leave me, but also because it would be great for that state of mind. However, today, I’m stressed, over worked, in a stable relationship and watching the clock. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely and all but I really need it to slap me in the chops right now to get my attention and instead it’s nicely filling the silence in the background. So while it’s a great listening experience, it’s really hard to be excited by what I’m hearing.
10) Woodberry Cemetery
Shades of Simon & Garfunkel at the start of this. In other news, I’m getting sleepy you guys.
11) Vodka Sorrow
12) Golden Light
And so it ends, not in a blaze of glory but in a whimper.
I know I’m a being a douche bag here. I know this album is going to grow on me with repeat listening. There is enough quality that I can tell the song craftsmanship is top notch. But I also know that I just wasn’t in the frame of mind to listen to this type of record right now. And that’s the thing, I think 100 Acres of Sycamore is Fionn’s least accessible album. It lacks the charms of his first and the energy of his second and hangs around in a place called “nice”. There are some welcome additions to the set list, but overall the end result is so-so for me.