Richard Walters - The Animal

Chris Tapley 31/08/2009

Rating: 4.5/5

Singer Songwriter types are ten a penny, and as such the majority of them are easily dismissible as dull and predictable, spewing the same old faux emotional balladry that has given the genre a bad name. Every year or two though there's an album which emerges from beneath the rubbish heap, something which embraces the origins of the genre (guitar + tortured soul) and serves up something of delicate beauty, subtlety and humanity which has the ability to resonate the world over. Last year it was Bon Iver, before that Fionn Regan, and this year it really ought to be Richard Walters. His debut album 'The Animal' is a collection of beautiful, dream like, transcendental sketches of heartbreak and spiritual malaise in which it's impossible not to lose yourself.

He combines his delicate falsetto with acoustic noodlings, creeping strings and washes of electronic noise to mesmerizing effect. As with any record of this type though, its true gift is in its intimacy and fragility. Testament to the child like innocence of the record is the fact that it's first single is a cover of Daniel Johnston's 'True Love Will Find You In The End', and there is a certain likeness with Johnston in Walters' music. Album opener 'Brittle Bones' is a subtle acoustic beginning which melts in to an ethereal chorus with vivid lyrical imagery “we danced in the dark on the stair, like the people who pushed us out the room”. Darkness and stillness is a recurring theme throughout the album, one of the highlights; 'All at Sea', sums it up with 'all the lights went out in empty rooms'. That is the perfect way to experience this album, tucked away in your own darkened corner, completely silent and still, separate from the world. The lyrics are Walters' strong suit, weaving a patchwork of memories and fragments of images which gives the record a dream like quality, having the ability to recall your own personal heartbreak with a simple turn of lyrical phrase or strained note. They are utterly captivating from start to finish.

The album isn't entirely without fault, later tracks fail to reach quite the same heights as the opening half, not to say that there is anything wrong with them, there are still flashes of brilliance throughout. Though the album as a whole is very subdued and there's always the nagging feeling that as it saunters towards the close that there should be something more of a climax, but it never arrives. Perhaps this is intentional though, maybe to give us such an expected and logical end would ruin the dreamy experience. Although this is slightly frustrating at times, 'The Animal' is a humble record of infinite elegance which deserves a lot of attention.

Richard Walters Myspace