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Adam Arcuragi - Adam Arcuragi

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 20 / 10 / 2006

Adam Arcuragi - Adam Arcuragi
Label: High Two
Format: CD


Flawed, but not without merit debut album from playwright and poet turned songwriter, Adam Arcuragi

It is probably the independent music fan’s traditional abhorrence of pretentiousness which means that lines between singer songwriter and genuine poet are rarely blurred. There are - as the new releases list/essay/novella HMV so helpfully prints out every month tells us - many earnest young men and women trying to pour out their souls from behind their acoustic guitars. Only the most gifted are cut the slack required to let their metaphorical aspirations roam freely. The rest are put firmly where they belong - tied up in dark cellars, never, ever to be set free. Adam Arcuragi will probably escape that particular fate. After all, he has won awards both for his playwriting and his poetry, so can honestly call himself a ‘writer‘. However, the question we listeners are bound to ask as we prepare to listen to this, his first collection of songs, is what makes him want to turn his hand to music as well? And why should we care? As one would expect, his songs are very wordy. The album comes with an expansive lyric sheet, which demonstrates a dense and allegorical writing style. But, actually, (and here lies the appeal of the man and his music) Arcuragi’s main strength is not these lyrics, it is his voice. I suppose an expert would say his singing is not technically sophisticated (Simon Cowell would certainly not approve), but, even with a small range of notes, he sounds pleasant, singing quite prettily and occasionally straining his voice into an affectingly yearning rasp. If you forced me to compare him to someone, I would probably say Damien Jurado, particularly on the gentler songs. Because the instrumentation rarely varies, it is definitely this sad sounding voice that distinguishes the music. Musically, this is very much a solo album, even though plenty of Adam’s friends have dropped by to lend a hand. There is percussion on only one number ('Broken Throat', where the band all clap their hands as one) so it is always Adam and his acoustic guitar that set the tone and the pace of the track. In a recent interview Adam admitted that he had made a deliberate attempt to emulate Mazzy Star’s “sexy and dusty” atmospherics, and this is where the band come in, providing a homophonic texture to Adam’s simple strumming, giving that desired hazy quality. A particularly good example of this comes on my favourite song on the record, 'Delicate', which - just as its title implies - is a fragile song, blessed with a sumptuous cello line from Eve Miller (of the Rachels). It is really lovely. My main criticism is the length of the album, which is a bit too long (just under an hour). Not a huge problem, but something that might be improved next time, I suggest. There are also a couple of irritating moments on the CD. '1981' has one of those false starts that have become increasingly popular in this, the era of the ‘unreleased outtake‘. 'The Christmas Song'is, for no apparent reason, introduced by Adam before the music starts. Doubtless, these were intended to give a “hey, we just carelessly threw this record together, you know” vibe. But, actually, it is as contrived as that infamous first post on WebCameron. Since it would have taken all of ten seconds to edit these introductions out, we know they’ve been consciously left on. And for precisely no benefit. These are forgivable sins, I admit, and haven’t stopped me listening to - and enjoying - the music. But all the same… Overall, though, this is an album worth listening to, from a poet who is worthy of being called a singer (a reversal of the norm!). I actually think that as he plays in front of more audiences he will learn to trim his music down more, and thus write more concise and better songs. But this is a good debut, nevertheless. I recommend it.

Track Listing:-
1 All The Bells
2 1981 (or Waving at You as We Part at Light Speed Will Look Like I'm Standing Still)
3 Delicate
4 Little Yellow Boat
5 The Song the Sinner Sings
6 Rsmpa
7 Part of the Sky
8 Broken Throat
9 'The Dog is Dead, Amen'
10 The Screen (Philadelphia)
11 The Christmas Song

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