Tom McRae - All Maps Welcome

Liam McGrady 02/05/2005

Rating: 4/5

I love records like this. It's an album that just gives and gives. Every listen reveals new treats, little snatches of sound that are slightly hidden, yet are absolutely vital in making the whole sound. And what a sound it is. 'All Maps Welcome' has such depth to it, and I don't mean “meaning of life” type depth, I mean it has a richness, a subtle warmth; it envelopes you, and wraps you up in grandiose orchestration.

It's not only the music that's stunningly beautiful either. If you haven't heard McRae's voice before then you're in for a treat - especially as the outstanding production pushes his bruised and tender, yet powerful tones to the fore.

'For The Restless' finds McRae, on the face of things, lamenting about insomnia, “This is for the restless, not the peaceful sleepers, this song's for you”, but dig a little deeper - in amongst the haunting melody, ice cold piano's and lightly bent guitar notes - and you'll also find a tale of unrequited love, “She comes to me in dreams, train wrecked beauty queen, but I don't remember her/On a wall of white and blue I wrote my name and thought of you, but you would not have known.”

It's not all downbeat though. 'The Girl Who Falls Downstairs' bursts in with exultant acoustic guitars and adds even more exultant strings to elevate the chorus into a thing of wonder, and 'How The West Was Won', despite it's less than joyous lyrical themes, “We use up people, use up time/We use up places, say goodbye”, has a strident, optimistic feel musically.

The low key ruminations do return though. 'It Ain't You' is an evocative, finger-picked piece, which is heartbreaking in it's message, “Something flickers in me, I feel emotion of life/I slip into the distance, and someone slips into my mind/But it ain't you”, and 'Strangest Land' is all traditional waltz like arrangements, cello's and maybe even an oboe if my ears don't deceive me.

The smile inducing highlight of this album follows shortly in the shape of 'Silent Boulevard'. I'm listening to this right now while gazing from my window at a spring day gently fading, the lines “The scene from the sky, the city tonight, is on fire” sending a chill down my spine before a pummelled drum heralds in a massive chorus of spiralling guitars and hammering pianos.