2020 brings a new start to our weekly album column with us taking a look at Joe Clarke's debut solo album, released under the moniker of backinhumanform.
With key influences such as James, Clarke offers something a lot more dreamy in sound than we're perhaps used to, but with light guitar work and these echoed vocals spanning across a lot of the record, it's a really nice sound.
Old Man, the album's opener, sets the ball rolling brilliantly with a tight sound and some lovely licks of electric guitar in amongst the vocals that sets the tone nicely for the start of a new year. Ships continues this sound, allowing Clarke's vocal to mix in with the rest of instruments to concoct something that sounds perfectly relaxed. This laid-back sound doesn't detract from the talent of Clarke and his work in the studio. It's got this real subtleness to it, which isn't easy to achieve, and there's no doubts that Clarke has a fantastic voice to go with it. There's parallels that can be drawn to the effervescent Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree and some of their lighter work, which really is high praise indeed.
On The Road sees a lighter guitar sound juxtaposed by the echoed vocal, telling the story of a broken down relationship that's obviously been fraught with arguments. In the middle of the song, there's some great back-masked guitar that's reminiscent of The Beatles' Revolver and later work. It's a really great addition, juxtaposing sixties techniques with a modern sound. half-light strips things back a little to just Clarke and an acoustic guitar, which makes a change from the previous production masterworks. It's got this brilliant ambience to it, with the vocal almost seeming spoken at times, and the gentle guitar only invites the listener further into Clarke's dreamland.
Shadows picks up the pace nicely, with a cleaner vocal and some rather interesting features. Its chosen beat patterns and counts make it sound like an Irish folk song, but when featuring a full band, rolling guitar riffs and backing vocals, changes the sentiments completely. It's like a modern rock drinking song with pints being spilt everywhere and everyone having a jolly good time. Chained To The Wheel offers something a little shorter, running at just under two minutes in length. With its playful acoustic guitar, it sounds a little bit like a typical folk song, with just that little bit more substance that makes all the difference.
Moments ditches the electric guitar in favour of the trusty acoustic for the song's first part, featuring some wistful lyrics about Clarke's relationship with time and whether it will match certain events over the course of the song. It's nice and upbeat and certainly one of the album's more jovial standouts. Hundreds slows things back down and returns to something a little more choral; with its usage of a lighter electric guitar and dreamy solo, it's a number that Coldplay would be proud of. The bass becomes a little more prominent towards the end and adds something a little different as the song ends on a lovely sustained note.
Slippin' Away harks back to a beat-driven sound, pioneered during the sixties, with some rhyming lyrics working brilliantly with drum patterns to create something reminiscent of classic Merseybeat. It's one of this album's lighter offerings, showing that you don't always need modern inspirations to create something fantastic. Dreads returns to the acoustic guitar, stripping things back completely, choosing to contrast a darker, spoken vocal with some jovial guitar work that somehow fits rather nicely. Auld Lang Xiety sees a return to this Porcupine Tree type sound that helps to make the album's final song one to be proud of. Clarke's vocal here is one of the album's best, and combines with the gritty guitar in part to make it an absolutely fantastic song.
There's no doubts that backinhumanform is a sterling album. With some smooth vocals and excellent guitar work, it's certainly fair to say that we're starting the year off right by introducing you to a brilliant new album from a fantastic new artist.
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/304u2c8
Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:
More musical magnificence to come next week!
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