Monday 3 March 2014

Withered Hand - New Gods (Fortuna Pop!)

Honesty and open-hearted souls are not particularly the staples of the indiepop domain, but then this probably isn't an indiepop record. What is it? It's the warmest, saddest, downright heartbreaking collection of songs you'll hear this year. It's destined to make everyone sit up and gather in the majesty of Withered Hand.

This is the bit where I'm supposed to mention the Fence Collective, I'm sure, but why waste time? "Nobody in love will ever die" sings Dan Willson on opener 'Horseshoe', and isn't that something to hang your hat on? 'Cos this record seems, to me at least, to deal with a whole load of emotions, worries and "issues" that someone approaching their late-30s, entering their 40s has to come to terms with.

Excuse me if I'm projecting, Mr Willson...

"Shift your paradigm," he sings on 'Black Tambourine', telling us that, as we go through life, our priorities might change, and yeah, we might be lonely, but then isn't everyone lonely? NO. Sing it, sister.

Half the time, I wonder if Wilson is deeply unhappy, whilst the other half I think he's finally at ease with the world, and how jealous I am of that. 'Love Over Desire' is such a schizophrenic song. Also: it might be about the fear of flying - who knows?

But there are genuine toe-tappers here. The Wurlitzer pop of 'King of Hollywood' (whilst it also might be about not liking flying - concept album?), is ACTUALLY REALLY FUNNY, in a tragi-comic way. Meanwhile, the agit-pop of 'Heart Heart' is almost as powerful here as it is live. This is no mope-fest, alright?

The music? Well, the music is an incredibly fine mixture of folk-pop and Americana. It sounds as though you could play it to your Mum if she'd had two brandies too many and was 'up for a party', but is also perfect for a night in on your own. That solitude is nowhere better illustrated than on the Tompaulin-esque 'California'.

Right at the heart of this album is probably the most precious love song you'll ever hear. 'Between Love and Ruin' might be hard to deal with, but through all the turmoil is the fact that, after everything, it's all going to be okay.

It isn't so much world-weariness that runs through throughout 'New Gods', more a bewilderment at growing older, and a longing for something to grab on to. Life is still good, after all, right, and right about now this album says more to me about my life than anything else around. I might have got it all horribly wrong, but, really, I don't care because having this record around the last few weeks has been wonderful. I get the feeling it'll be there for the rest of my life. Y'know... one of those albums.

'New Gods' is out on Fortuna Pop! on 10th March. It's more of an act of self-help than an exercise in buying a record, believe me.

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