Come back older, come back changed

I’m really enjoying Tom McRae’s new album King of Cards. I’ve spent the best part of the last few days with fragments of its tunes slipping in and out of my head.

I’m also a bit disappointed with it: there are a few songs that, as yet, seem as anonymous as passing strangers on the street. I still couldn’t tell you much about them despite the fact that I’ve bumped into them for three days straight. ‘The Ballad of Amelia Earheart’ is one such, as is ‘Houdini And the Girl’. It’s not that they’re poppy, just… slight. There are also some songs that feel lyrically or structurally awkward, like ‘One Mississippi’, which is something I don’t normally associate with his writing.

Clearly his mission statement on this album was accessibility. Even more than All Maps Welcome this is by far his most eclectic mix of songs, with tracks that could sit comfortably on each of his past albums but also frothier tracks that, until now, I really wouldn’t have associated with him at all. The saving grace is that he does accessible quite well. Even the up-tempo happy ones have twists and quirks that sound like Tom McRae songs–just up-tempo, happy Tom McRae songs. ‘Bright Lights’, for example, is just the kind of thing I didn’t expect to like. It’s great. They’re not as satisfying as a lot of material on his earlier albums, but they’re enjoyable on their own terms. And if they feel a little bit thin at times then there’s always the more typical stuff like the sparse ‘Got A Suitcase, Got Regrets’ or the stumbling bitterness of ‘Keep Your Picture Clear’. ‘On And On’ is strangely addictive too.

It’s far from perfect, but there’s lots to enjoy. Apparently he’s already written his next album, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be great, but I do hope for something a touch darker next time around.

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