on November 24, 2010
Damon "Badly Drawn Boy" Gough's career is one of many variations of the all-too-perfect example of how the music industry has lost its mind. His breakthrough debut, 2000's The House of the Bewilderbeast, came along just as rampant file sharing crimes were hitting their stride. Within three years there were two million new bands on the Internet, countless music blogs and a huge number of failing record labels, artists and record stores. Bewilderbeast, a classic debut that easily ranks among the best intro records of the Naughts, set the bar high for BDB - a bar he easily hurdled with his second release, a soundtrack for the film About a Boy. Seeming on his way, BDB never again found the acclaim, fandom, attention or sales the first two records brought, instead, fading into the endless crowd of modern indie.
The consensus has been, amongst both writers and listeners it seems, that BDB hasn't done much worth listening to since those first two records. Sure, you'll find the loving press for each album, but, in general, one would think that - on paper - BDB's career died in 2003. Not true. Every BDB album I've heard (and there have been lots) is at least decent and includes a few great songs. The problem is that the sound has never been as shockingly unique as it was on Bewilderbeast. That, and the fact that, once you lose your steam in this modern day music world, you're all but done, regardless of how good your records are.
Last year Gough released Is There Nothing We Could Do?, a soundtrack for a TV film called "The Fattest Man in Britain," available only in the UK. Reviews were seemingly on board again, predicting that whatever Gough did next would be worth checking out, even if his time in the spotlight has passed. And now here it is, It's What I'm Thinking (Part One: Photographing Snowflakes), the first in a trilogy of themed albums and BDB's first proper studio release since 2006's Born In the UK. His fan base and media attention a fraction of what it was in 2002, the album has thus far been well received, many calling the record not just his best work since Bewilderbeast, but his most complete work yet.
Meh. False. Not even close to true. Yeah, sure, it's better than UK and One Plus One Is One, but probably not Have You Fed the Fish or About - and certainly not Bewilderbeast. The writing and compositions on Snowflakes are, however, his by-far most mature and patient work yet, and maybe his most detailed since his early days. The songs, most of which are simultaneously mellow and grand, often feature cinematic swells and melody, understated vocals and organic production. While there aren't a huge number of pop songs that could register as singles, most of the material here comes stocked with memorable hooks, the real meat focused on Gough's lush compositions and lazy bedhead vocals. "The Order of Things," one of Snowflakes' standouts, is made perfect for scarf season mixtures; mellow, comfy and mood setting, it's one of Gough's best cuts yet, full of sing-along lines and clever production decor. "What Tomorrow Brings," another big winner, keeps it simple, not utilizing the sparse drum machine programming used throughout the bulk of the record, instead focused on the writing and delicate string arrangements.
If nothing else, Snowflakes is the album that will keep Gough going. It's too good of a record to do anything but bring back some old fans and maybe make a few newbies. The inventive pop of Bewilderbeast may forever be gone, but that okay. With songs like these, we're reminded why Gough was so good to begin with - he can write strong songs and has a great indie-pop voice. Elliott Smith's archives now tapped out and Benoit Pioulard still struggling to find his fans, Badly Drawn Boy once again stands as your best bet when it comes to winter-friendly singer/songwriter pop. A welcome return, even if the appeal is different.
Badly Drawn Boy's new CD "It's What I'm Thinking: Part 1 - Photographing Snowflakes" is just as arty sounding as its title; soft lush sounds with a dreamy ambience acting as a backdrop for his plaintive vocals.
Opening is the Fleet Foxy "Safe Hands", followed by the more upbeat quivering beauty of "The Order of Things". "10 feet tall, but feeling small" he sings on the dreamy "What Tomorrow Brings", while the perky and absolutely magical "I Saw You Walk Away" finds his echoing vocals juxtaposed with arching strings.
Everything stands out on this superb collection, the countrified "It's What I'm Thinking", the gently chiming "You Lied" with hushed reverb-laden vocals, the groovy "This Electric", to the quirky "This Beautiful Idea" with disembodied vocals and Oriental chimes. Strangely beautiful, as is the entire album!
on October 30, 2010
Damon puts his heart on the table again, so to truly see the ruby within, you need to dissect his heart and feel what he feels in each song. They are like little whispers in our ears all the things we wonder about when love keeps us from falling sleep. Being a dedicated true fan of Badly Drawn Boy from the start, since his magical album 'Bewilderbeast' I scour his new lyrics and devour his melodies. Every album he makes is completely different from the other, but contain all the pieces of his heart. Which makes him an artist, a truly diverse unique artist. This album sounds like a dream put into song.
In safe hands- reminds me of the free spirit vibes of 'silent sigh' that relax you into a trance.
The order of things- this brokenheart melody is similar to the sounds of 'born in the uk', "mean something that you say, birds in the sky - sing my melodies, but the truth is always there behind the order of things" is that not perfectly said? love it.
Too many miracles- definitely has the old 'Bewilderbeast' feel that attracted us like bees to his pollen and can't get enough of. "The age of romance is dead and gone...people falling out of love...are you ready to be in love again? I'm ready to be in love" these lyrics shine on the reality of people forgetting what a miracle
love truly is, and not to let yourself fall out of love.
What tomorrow brings-is a meditational song that just says what we all feel a long or bad day "I'm tired of thinking about this morning, may as well just dream about what tomorrow brings"
Saw you walk away- this song has the compelling essence of the songs on 'have you fed the fish?" This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. "you see life in moments, i know i could run out of time, but i can see your face in mine, and it's beautiful" to me this means we all have someone we had to walk away from, but cannot erase the beautiful moments with them that seemed all to perfect, yet just wasn't meant to be.
It's what I'm thinking- a very simple song, almost a tangent from his heart, he meanders through his failures and desires, with a profound conclusion to his restless thoughts, "you can only blame yourself, find the saviour in yourself, and not in me." Which is so true, we can't expect others to save us in our failures, we have to save ourselves by learning through our failures.
You lied- "All I ask is you need me - all I ask is you hear me, only you can complete me like you can" ends this melancholy aching beauty rift drowning in a lie. Definitely a golden song on the album, that captures us like "promises".
A pure accident-Damon's song that hangs on a thread of hope. A peak of hope for reconciled love. "I want to ask you questions I never asked back then...this kind of thing doesn't happen everyday, as long as we both want the same things, then it should all be ok." I think this song has it's own sound, it sounds like he's talking to himself outloud, but he imagines it echoes throughout the world.
The electric- A lovely ballad that sparks 'have you fed the fish' vibes again, with all it's complicated sullen giddy-ness, you can't resist it. "chasing all miracles, afraid of nothing...finding something, take a hold with your hands."
This beautiful idea- "are we ready to compromise this beautiful idea? can you help me face the morning, love replacing fear? a life out of time, but I want to share you in mine" ending this album with his beautiful idea of what he's thinking. A soft simple song, his silky sulky voice makes it a gem.
While some of his songs on this album may feel bland or without heart to some listeners, each song reaches peaks of hope that end with something we all can relate. He only sings what comes from his heart, and it's easy to tell. His auto-biographical melodies possesses all the elements of what all of us as humans endure, through hopes, dreams and disappointments. Meeting this artist in person is still one of my greatest moments in my life.
on November 20, 2010
Finally, the boy has created a seamless piece that doesn't have me reaching for the skip button. Many of his records have some experimental stuff interwoven between brilliant songs... this one is ALL KILLER, no filler. Put it on if you have a long drive or walk ahead of you or need to " sort yerself out" ... atmospheric, confessional, introspective... glad to have ya back, mate... don't stay away so long...