December ’91 – Starin’ at the Freaks [GoldMold]

December ‘91– who, by the way, has one of the most compelling solo acoustic guitar acts I’ve seen – has a new album called Starin’ at the Freaks.

There are a few things that I have come to expect from the artist; a warm and traditionally “folky” (whatever that means) sound, a dark and subtle back hand that creeps around a lot of the songs, and some embarrassingly if not upsettingly frank lyrics (seriously though, there’s such a juxtaposition between nice wee boy playing nice wee songs and bad wee boy singing bad wee songs, it’s ridiculous).

These aspects of December ‘91’s music are delivered in droves, but so are influences from eighties pop music and some excellent production, which I wasn’t given to expect.

That said, there is a little less crude lyricism in this release, so the listening experience is less wrought with spilled beverages, shoogly heads and tutting noises.

All told, this is a really competent and enjoyable release – definitely the artists best so far.

December ‘91’s music has a distinctive darkness to it, despite this offering being much lighter seeming in tone than previous albums.

There is candidness to the music that borders on the unsettling at times.

The type of music in question often lacks the edge that December 91 injects.

Often the lyrics are light but the music is dark or vice versa, it is quite subversive and certainly unpredictable.

This album seems like a step in a more commercially viable direction for the artist, but thankfully this comes without a sacrifice of quality and integrity, it comes with a better scope in terms of production and the intelligent and tasteful inclusion of a variety of instruments and influences.

Being the most professional sounding release so far, it is the one that highlights most so the variability, enduringness and appeal of the artist.

Tracks like ‘Starin’ at the Freaks’ and ‘Time on my Hands’ have an element of class that is difficult to fake, while ‘All Night (Alone in This World)’ and ‘Leanin’ on my Shoulder’ counterbalance some of the more uppity tracks with an honest clarity that inhibit the album from being like much else out right now.

Some of the vocals are imperfect, although it doesn’t seem as if this was unintentional; it seems as though this is in contribution to the honest and forthcoming nature of the music.

The album seems to do what one might expect from a folk-rock album produced by someone in their twenties in the city of Glasgow.

There are meaningful twangs of Americana, a well-balanced mixture of classical and contemporary elements and a lack of seriousness – with some swearing, morbidity and crassness thrown in for good measure.

This album seems likely to endure.

Words: Paul Aitken

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