John Almond – Under Your Door

John Almond
Under Your Door

Well, oddly enough, I find myself reviewing yet another CD that I have to talk about in segments. I tend to get ‘moody’ sometimes when writing about music, and as such, I get on tangents where I’ll think half of a disc is rubbish, while the other half is stellar. Of course, two weeks later, I listen to the disc again and usually have a vasty different outlook about things, which leads to me kicking myself in the backside for not giving someone’s time and effort the fair shake that it deserved (because let’s face it here – artists bust ass producing music, and it’s a privelage for someone like me to get the chance to be exposed to all of the indie artists that I get to review; it’s only fair that I put a serious, unbiased effort into listening to and reviewing material send to me).
Anyways, all rambling aside, I originally found that John Almond’s Under Your Door was odd, in that I found myself completely tuning out the first four tracks, while I was really digging the final five. I didn’t want this review to fall into the same trap that other reviews had fallen into with me (A-HA! See, I’m learning!), so I gave myself a few weeks away from Mr. Almond to see if that would possibly even out my opinionizing (or, if, indeed, the disc really was of the yin-yang variety).
Unfortunately, my results were somewhat inconclusive. The thing with John Almond is that his style of music is just a bit too laid-back for my tastes. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind laid-back musical stylings, but something about Under Your Door is really, really lulling (as far as, there are passages that just seem to run on like an endless vinyl loop). I feel the need to balance that statement out, however, because while portions of the disc seem a bit quietly tedious, other parts pleasantly floored me.
Almond basically tosses out a nine-song set of slightly country-tinged singer-songwriter folk-type material as the main dish on Under Your Door, though that dish is augmented with flourishes of new age parsley to give the whole thing a slightly different, more colorful slant. The material that does work, works very well, even though the more ‘droning’ stuff does stand up decently enough on its own merits.
See, the first half of the disc honestly really isn’t as dry as I remembered it the first time around. While the album opener, “The Circus Leaves Town,” doesn’t exactly grab listeners by the lapels to drag them towards the speakers, it is a really nice, tame, folk-country track. The track meanders a bit (which takes away from its effectiveness as an opener), but it’s still a decent investment of five-and-a-half minutes. “New Church Morning” comes off as a rather throwaway, new-agey instrumental piece (though its significance becomes more prominent later in the disc), while the deliberate, tremolo-filled “Tears or Laughter” brightens up the disc a bit with its very pretty female backing vocals and touches of xylophone. “Come on Back” starts off as a really ‘eh’ acoustic track, though it manages to pick up enough steam to slightly resemble a jangly Matthew Sweet.
Smack dab in the middle of the disc is “Songwesing,” easily the highpoint of the disc courtesy of its sweet piano backing and violin solo. Almond’s voice here actually resembles Nick Drake, and the subtle guitar solo that punctuates the middle of the track carries a tender blues-iness that really accentuates the mood of the lilting violin piece that winds the track down. It’s a tough act to follow, indeed, though “All That Noise” maks a place for itself as a nice little song along Van Morrison/Counting Crows lines (including a few really nice piano bridge pieces).
The seven-minute “Grace and Favor” seems like it will wear out its welcome quickly, but the track is saved courtesy of some unexpected trumpet parts, as well as an tight two-minute outro built around interaction between the piano, trumpet, and both electric and acoustic guitars. “Showboat” is a short, simple acoustic folk number, but the real surprise here is the downright new-age-meets-folk closer, “Deep Sunday.” After a two-minute tribal-sounding opening, the instrumental track opens up into a lush folk rhythm with an electronic backing (think acoustic guitars over Delerium beats). At one point, a very active bassline kicks in underneath synth swells while acoustic guitar bits accentuate a stark piano part. There is a lot going on here, though the unexpected twist works out well to close the album.
I’m glad I took the extra time to sit on reviewing Under Your Door, as I the first half of this disc wasn’t nearly as haggard as I would have originally made it out to be. Still, though, everything from “Songwesing” on really clicks, and this leaves the album feeling a bit ‘loaded’ towards the second half, still. Personally, I think that a bit of re-sequencing could work wonders for this CD, but as it is, John Almond’s put together a pretty nice little musical package here. Under Your Door most likely won’t convert fans who aren’t already into this genre, but it’s a solid enough investment for folks who enjoy this sort of thing.