James Walsh – Lullaby (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
JAMES Walsh may be on hiatus from Starsailor but he’s keeping himself busy with solo ventures.
His new album, Lullaby, was co-written with Sacha Skarbek (of Adele, Duffy and Lana Del Ray fame) and was inspired by the themes and characters of a forthcoming film of the same name (by Chuck Palahniuk).
The ensuing songs play to Walsh’s strengths in a lot of ways, enabling him to maintain the serious, often soul-searching tone of his Starsailor leadership and to employ his emotive vocals to maximum effect. As such, it remains an acquired taste and doesn’t stray too far outside of the singer’s own comfort zone even though he wrote many of the songs using guidance provided by visual references and notes from the film’s director.
If anything, the album gets better the longer it lasts, with some of the most striking songs drawing the album to its close and actually sounding different.
Sticks & Stones, for example, has a thrilling electronic loop and some driving acoustic guitar that enables Walsh to tap into a darker, edgier side to his repertoire vocally. It’s insistent, compelling and cinematic.
White Noise also brings the album to a close in atmospheric, even sombre fashion… there’s a sparseness to the instrumentals with the melancholy piano chords particularly effective against Walsh’s stark vocal.
It’s not all dark and serious, though. Tracks like This Town, with its subtle blend of acoustic guitars and strings, offers a vague sense of escape and hope and is nicely delivered (again, the song comes towards the end of the LP), while prior to that Paper Roses maintains a nice rhythm and a bittersweet tone that’s similarly endearing.
It’s almost ironic, then, that the album takes so long to really get going. Road Kill Jesus, its opening song for example, is a little too bland and serious to really grab you forcefully (despite some nice melodies) and Lullaby Song holds back a little too much, promising more than it ultimately delivers and relying on more sparse instrumentation (but not in a good way).
Helen’s Song (How Can You Love Me?) picks up the tempo and finds some foot-stomping beats among its rousing guitar folk-pop (emerging as an early highlight) but current single Start Again needs a little more urgency and tracks like Counting Song, Culling Song and Angel of Death feel a little too deliberate and serious.
You can tell it’s been carefully, even meticulously put together by Walsh and Skarbek but in spite of the odd highlight Lullaby doesn’t really have enough to consistently hold the attention.
Download picks: Helen’s Song, Paper Roses, Sticks & Stones, White Noise, This Town