Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Review: The Kennedys - Closer Than You Know

 I am going to review Closer Than You Know by US folk/rock duo The Kennedys, first released in late 2012. Being a Kennedys fan, I had high expectations for this album, and it didn't disappoint. I'm going to take you through the album track by track, and then give my final verdict. Enjoy!

1) Winter - This song struck me immediately as quite different to other Kennedys songs; it has a dark, haunting feel to it and sounds more heavily produced than their other songs.

 Maura's voice sounds as though it has been put through a synthesiser which normally I would object to as it is beautiful without; however here it adds to the the mysterious feel of the song, creating a very powerful overall effect.

 It's intense; a song you can get lost in. A good opening track that takes you by surprise and makes you wonder what is still to come in this album.

2) Rhyme and Reason - I heard somewhere that this album had some jazz influence; I feel that in this song it is most apparent. Certainly has a jazzy feel to it, a nice melody and some particularly nice vocals from Maura.

 Something about it reminds me of Tumble and Fall by Nanci Griffith, a song I love. Rhyme and Reason is not my favourite track on the album personally, but nonetheless a good, well-crafted song.

3) I'll Come Over - This was the first song from this album that I heard - way back in early 2012 when I saw The Kennedys in concert for the first time. I liked it then and it has really grown on me.

 Hearing the story behind it; that Maura wrote the lyrics for friends who were going through a tough time, makes it even more poignant. Beautiful lyrics, beautifully sung, with real emotion.

4) Cradle to a Boat - Not one of my stand-out tracks on the album, but a good song with some interesting lyrics, nice Spanish-style guitar work; certainly has its own ambiance. It seemed to finish very suddenly for me; I could have listened to another verse and chorus to try to better understand this unusual song.

5) Sigh - One of my favourite songs on the album. This could very easily have been a kitsch ballad, but Pete and Maura have managed to avoid that, and have instead produced a sophisticated, moving song that does exactly what I imagine it was intended to do - make you feel a bit better when you are feeling sad. Every bit of this song is gorgeous.

6) Home - I wasn't keen on this song at first, but it has grown on me somewhat; it has the same mysterious, haunting feeling as Winter and Cradle to a Boat.

 It's a song I'd have to listen to in the right frame of mind; if I were feeling down then the sadness of the song probably wouldn't help! But it's an interesting song; one I'll have to listen to again to try to understand the meaning behind the lyrics.

7) Marina Dream - This isn't the song I was expecting; Marina Dream sounds - well, dreamy and relaxing. Instead, this is fast, urgent; like an epic from the middle ages. I like it.

8) Made of Sand - Certainly the most rock-orientated track on the album, this song of Maura's has nice lyrics, and her voice goes incredibly well with the beat... I'm very jealous of her ability to sing equally wonderfully on folk and rock tracks.

9) Big Star Song - I really like this. I listened to a few Big Star songs in preparation for reviewing this track, as I wondered if it was meant to sound like one. My conclusion is that it sounds more like a Kennedys song, which can never be a bad thing!

 I could go on and on about Maura's vocals on any song and have tried to avoid doing so as it would become very repetitive. However, I feel this song deserves special mention. When she sings, "... the days are longer, maybe he'd have held on," and then on "lost in time," her voice is particularly gorgeous.

 Whether this song is a straight tribute to Alex Chilton or a love song combined with an Alex Chilton tribute I'm not sure, but it is certainly very beautiful and is probably one of the two songs on this album I've listened to most, the other being the next track I am about to discuss: Wild Honey.

 10) Wild Honey - This is The Kennedys' take on the U2 song; having U2 fan parents I probably heard the original once but had forgotten it when I heard the Kennedys' version, and it blew me away.

 I subsequently listened to the U2 version, and I probably prefer the Kennedys' one. However, I'm not going to launch into comparisons; I'm simply going to talk from now on about the Kennedys version as a song in its own right.

 I love the guitar work; the intro is lovely, as are the vocals, especially on "wild, wild, wild..." I think this song suits Maura's voice and the Kennedys have done a great job of making the song their own despite not straying that far from the original. Lovely song and perhaps my favourite on the album.

11) Happy Again - Like I'll Come Over and Sigh, this song seeks to comfort those in pain or sadness, and includes the album title, "closer than you know." It's a good song, perhaps not one of my favourites, but it's clear that the lyrics come straight from the heart.

12) Winter Lies - The album began with a song about winter and ends with one. Winter Lies is slow, almost like a poem, full of wintry imagery. It'a very different from the rest of the tracks, but provides a peaceful finish to the album.

 Overall, I really enjoyed this album; it follows a number of different directions, from the jazzy Rhyme and Reason to the rocky Made of Sand to the folksy Wild Honey. Sigh is the high point for me musically; I think it is one of the Kennedys' best songs.

 According to the album cover Maura wrote all of the lyrics for this album (besides Wild Honey) and I applaud her, as there are some very nice ones, particularly in Cradle for a Boat, Made of Sand and the aforementioned Sigh.

 As always, Pete's guitar playing and arrangements are superb, and Maura's voice is stunning. This album has all you would expect from the Kennedys, which added to the diversity of musical styles makes Closer Than You Know a very strong release.

 Rating: 8/10

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