Having left the Bella Union stable, Paul Marshall goes his own way with this stirring collection of boldly arranged, electronically-aided songs, baring the hallmarks of a Talk Talk obsession and a fondness for the organised chaos of Wild Beasts’ hiccupping rhythms. With an achingly emotive voice, Marshall sounds like a man at ease with his music, if not the world. Stand-out track ‘Two Good Lives’ typifies the great ambition and meticulous craft present and will make you sob like a recently dumped fresher. The sincere sadness experienced as the head and the heart fall out is rendered magnificently by this slow-burning monster of a song. It’s not an onslaught, but it can leave you feeling like you’ve been through something emotionally exhausting and yet also make you want to play it again immediately thereafter. Every second of this record is finely sculpted and deserves your full attention. The spaces in-between are almost as important as the notes themselves on a headphone album with which to brave the winter.
This is a markedly different album to ‘The Devil & I‘, but no less captivating. ‘Butterfly‘ possesses a chorus which sounds like a witching hour play of the Sugababes’ ‘Hole In The Head‘ at the wrong speed, while ‘The Swan Of Meander’ has lost none of its mellifluous charms in the months since was unveiled as a taster for the record. When you consider the sizeable leap from Marshall’s debut, under his own name, ‘Vultures‘, to that first album as Lone Wolf, an even greater shift has occurred with ‘The Lovers’. For all of the importance of those aforementioned influences, this record manages to sound unlike anything else I’ve heard this year. The awkward blends with the smooth, as discordant noises simmer under beautifully simply synths, while the most crippling of emotions are explored within some truly euphoric vocal performances.
Self-released and hardly riding any current musical zeitgeist, ‘The Lovers’ has slipped quietly into the world. It will prosper based on word of mouth and, knowing what effect that very first listen on headphones had on me one Saturday morning, be sure to give it some of your time during the drifting festive hours. A few hundred fans helped get this out there via PledgeMusic, ensuring that those still in need of music which does more than just fill a car journey can pick up one of the most consistently excellent albums unleashed this year.