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'West In The Head'   

-  Label: 'Human Music Group'
-  Genre: 'Indie' -  Release Date: '20th July 2018'

Our Rating:
Anybody who likes their songs to have clear stories or a readily identifiable subject matter will probably find the third album by this Stockholm-based band a frustrating experience.

American songwriter Nicolas Faraone may have the earnest, didactic tone of a protest singer but you'll find no obvious targets or messages in his compositions. Instead, even the press release identifies the "purposeful lack of clarity" exemplified in a song such as Freewheeling Through The Old World.

A line from this song and the album title is taken from a William H Gass essay about Gertrude Stein and American modernists. The obscurity of the source is indicative of Faraone's literary bent and illustrates his reluctance to compromise for the sake of mass popularity. It's easy to see why a writer such as Gass should appeal to him; this is an author who once described his novels as "malevolently anti-narrative".

Faraone's lyrics are similarly opaque although there's nothing to indicate that his impressionistic style of writing is intended to be deliberately malevolent. The music is also made more accessible by the bright melodies his Nordic accomplices, Tom Skantze and Robin Af Ekenstam, which offset the disconsolate atmosphere established through his vocals.

Nevertheless, the strong impression you get is that, for Faraone, finding sense or purpose in the world is a sysyphean task. In Bone Beach, the opening track, he imagines himself as "the only gravedigger on an island of solid rock" and in My Take mundane daily habits become an irritant: "I'm tired of taking off my clothes, just to get dirty again".

Finding guidance or inspiration from others proves equally frustrating. Common Tongue appears to be about the gradual breakdown of a close friendship ("I thought you and I were on the same page") while the quest for positive role models provides inconclusive in Moaning Teresa: "nobody does it like whatshername".

The white bus on the album cover "is meant to depict the imaginative vehicle that drives this record" and, although its destination remains unknown the ten songs are intriguing enough to make the journey worthwhile.

Barbarisms' website
  author: Martin Raybould

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BARBARISMS - West In The Head