Iain Archer makes another solo outing
Former Snow Patrol member Iain Archer launches his latest album 'Magnetic North' after much critical acclaim, including winning an Ivor Novello award for his song writing with Snow Patrol. He also worked solo in the mid-90s, as well as being a key member of super group The Reindeer Section, of which Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody was the main vocalist.
The intricate acoustic guitar and hushed vocals of opening track 'Canal Song (End Of Sentence)' immediately remind me of 'Iron & Wine', meaning we're off to a very positive start as far as I'm concerned. The lovelorn tone of the song is defined more obviously by its basic construction, making lines such as "But my heart it never breaks, it just beats on despite the ache" hit that much harder than they may have otherwise.
The following song 'Minus Ten' sees a swift change of pace, and is a much more punchy, upbeat affair, reminiscent of The Shins, a band Archer mentions he is a fan of, an influence which is clearly defined via this slice of indie pop.
'When It Kicks In' has a similar pace and here the vocals are easily comparable to The Shins James Mercer's distinctive, passion-fuelled delivery. Similarly, 'Soleil' has a harmony straight from 'New Slang'.
'Everything I've Got' opens with a brief piano interlude and then slips into a simple acoustic ballad. This is a return to the pared down style of the opening track, a style that in my opinion, fits Archer more comfortably. This song sees a more reflective Archer singing about "scattered chaos" and "crying till I'm almost throwing up". The sheer fragility of Archer's cracking voice as he delivers this song shows a really sincere sadness and longing; a rarity for this type of song. I can't help but think were Snow Patrol working on this song they'd manage to issue it with the heavy handed approach which chased songs like 'Run' into the bland territory of power ballads. Instead, Archer creates perhaps my favourite song on the album, and is up there alongside Damien Rice for creating intensely sincere songs about broken hearts.
'Arriero' is a slow paced, piano driven song, another weakness of mine. Here his voice again demonstrates the kind of fragility sure to win me over, and at times he sounds like Conor Oberst, another artist he mentions listening to on the press release. 'Frozen Nothern Shores' also has a slight Bright Eyes feel to the pace and melody, leading me to think that perhaps this is an album moving in cycles. It began with an introspective song, which was followed by several more optimistic songs, which lead back to introspection. The album's final songs, are the breezy 'Long Jump', 'Luke's Point' a song about never fully recovering from hurt, and 'Lifeboat', a song about trying to carry on, all of which show Iain Archer's versatility as a writer.
This album may not jump out at you and demand your attention on its first listen, but before long it will crawl under your skin and remain there for the foreseeable future. Iain Archer is a songwriter to keep an eye on, particularly as he has taken a mixture of influences and made something entirely his own.