I’m addicted to Tom McRae. It started small – just the first album. Okay, strike that, it started big – just the first album. I liked it after one listen, loved it after two, then we put it on repeat play in the car and never looked back. I’m expecting the album’s third child shortly.
What’s got me hooked is the alchemical combination of insidious tunes and smart, evocative lyrics. There’s hardly a false note on the album; sincere and beautiful without being sentimental, bitter without being cold, thoughtful without being laboured. There’s a darkness that permeates even the sweetest emotion. At every turn the songs defy the conventional, and yet push every button that needs pushing. The standout tracks for me are Bloodless, One More Mile, Hidden Camera Show… oh, all of them really. The only low point is A & B song, but it’s not poor, just stylistically evocative of cheesy ’80s rock.
I know it’s a risky thing to say after a few weeks’ exposure but on current evidence it’s up there with my all time favourite albums1. It reminds me of Ben Folds, Damien Rice, Thea Gilmore – edgy, singer-songwriter sensibility.
I’ve now progressed as far as his second album Just like Blood, which I must confess I was hugely disappointed with on first listen. After the boldness of his debut the follow-up feels oddly conventional, with all the things that grabbed me tempered by a more mainstream sensibility. It’s hardly a damning indictment, but the final track Human Remains would sit comfortably on Neil Finn’s last album.
Thankfully Just Like Blood has grown on me since then; the songs sneak up on you both musically and lyrically, and there are some real gems. Stronger than Dirt and Mermaid Blues would be my picks from the album. I’ve certainly spent entire days with its tunes circling around my hindbrain, but it’s not the classic its predecessor was.
At the moment I have both albums in circulation, but I’m holding off on the third album until I’ve had a bit more time for these two to settle in. In the meantime, if you haven’t heard the self-titled first album, I really can’t recommend it highly enough. Even my wife is an addict.
1For context, my favourite albums are probably, in no particular order: Whatever and Ever Amen by Ben Folds Five, Before These Crowded Streets by Dave Matthews Band, Automatic for the People by R.E.M., Mighty Joe Moon by Grant Lee Buffalo, Recovering the Satellites by Counting Crows, Laid by James, Together Alone by Crowded House… you get the idea.