Thursday, 18 September 2014
Album Review - Withered Hand - New Gods
Dan Willson, better known by his indie/pop/folk moniker Withered Hand, is back five years after the release of his debut album Good News, his return is heralded by the arrival of his sweet new record New Gods.
Willson’s signature wavering dulcet tones are back, afresh in the new LP, lending the whole thing a casual ethereal-ness. In a departure from the lone guitars of the past, New Gods sounds a lot fuller and cleaner than his debut. Perhaps unsurprising, as the album was produced with the help of some savvy friends: members of the The Vaselines, Frightened Rabbit and Belle and Sebastian amongst the musical contributors.
The spearhead track Horseshoe offers a strong, safe base from which to explore the record. Willson picks up as if no time has passed, welcoming new friends and old with this somehow comforting ode to morality before Black Tambourine rolls in to carry you on an altogether more spirited wave, a fearless embrace of humanity littered with satisfying shakes of a tambourine.
The crooning Love Over Desire seems a bit sickly sweet at first, bringing the tempo down with the repetitive main line and sprawling guitar. The quicker verse adds truth and kudos to the song, and maybe it’s the soft side of me talking now, but this seems like a brilliant contender for one to wail out dramatically when I’m alone in my room of an evening and feeling a little heartsick.
Changing pace King of Hollywood comes shaking in to brighten the blue mood. Evidence of Willson’s collaborations is apparent here, as the groovy melody and light words are very Belle and Sebastian–esque.
We are taken into mellower grounds with the next few tracks. The haunting California is perfect for late-night street walking and bus-riding, seeming to capture the essence of sadness. Fall Apart is a song of comfortable and catchy remembrance; the slight relief welcomes the creeping ray of sunshine that shines through Between True Love and Ruin. A real love song heard in Willson’s soft, tender tones – this song makes me wish I could play guitar so I could get to work serenading someone.
Lazy, bold harmonica opens up Life of Doubt and continues to pierce the song with the tangible feeling of longing that it embodies. New Gods is a subtle and honest track about being better and being human, a relaxing beat that doesn’t try hard and doesn’t need to. This emotionally wrought chapter is liberated with the gleefully happy and careless Heart Heart, with strong cries from the hearts of joyful men and instrumentals full of life. A song that is just a whole lot of fun.
The beautiful and brassy Not Alone seems like the perfect adieu. It is a celebration of life and death, as the whole album is. Willson has a great talent for capturing feeling, as all good musicians should, through his unique voice and familiar riffs. An exceptional songwriter and definitely one to watch, this record deserves a proper listen. This is folk for people who think they don’t like folk.
- Maura Keane
Withered Hand - New Gods is out now via FortunaPop and is available in all good record shops, and online music retailers. You can buy the album here.