Dead Western - Everything, Eternally [Discorporate Records - 2012]
A colourful, gatefold sleeve holds this album from Dead Western; not a name I’d heard before, and not one I’ll be looking out for in future. I can’t pretend to have got much from this; but in it’s defence, a lot hinges on your reaction to the vocals - so you may find the following criticism a recommendation. “Everything, Eternally” has ten songs, working in the area of indie/americana; with a tweeness that brings to mind Mercury Rev’s “Deserter’s Songs” - though with a much more morose atmosphere.
As I said, the vocals are the deal-breaker here. To be quite honest, after hearing the first two minutes of “Everything, Eternally”, I was ready to turn it off. I’m not always good with histrionic, “unusual” vocals - though naturally it comes down to the presence and charm of the individual vocal in question - and Troy Mighty’s singing here, does grate on me. Whilst there are points where his voice has a nice timbre, and definite articulacy; the overwhelming feel is of a low-pitched, male version of the Joanna Newsom/Josephine Foster school of warbling. A constant twisting and turning melodic line, with lots of little inflections and vibrato; and “overwhelming” is the key word here: for most of the album, the vocal is double-tracked, triple-tracked… Its a choir of low warble: its not a pleasant sound. One track would be wayward enough, but tripling it creates a real grating discordancy at times; and this thick layer of singing often runs the risk of smothering the instrumental backing, dominating the mix as it does. This backing itself is nothing special, with the colouring somewhat standard for this kind of song: guitar with flourishes of violin/strings, piano, subdued percussion…
Histrionic vocals are always a matter of taste and to some extent that will decide how you take “Everything, Eternally”. To raise Mercury Rev again, Mighty’s voice has a vague similarity with David Baker (Mercury Rev’s vocalist during their early, more interesting years); but whilst it doesn’t have Baker’s charm, the issue is really more its multi-tracking: it seems unnecessary and counter-productive. However, there are brief pinpricks of light: “The Old Times” has a nice, stately grace; and the beginning of “The Smallest Things” shows the potential Dead Western have. The lyrics that open “All I Need Is All Around” are wonderfully observed and melancholy - its just a shame they are expressed in that voice… Martin P