Thursday, September 26, 2013

Devon Sproule & Mike O'Neill: "Colours" (album review)

When two singer/songwriters team up for a collaboration record, great things can happen...or not.  So what's the result when Toronto's Devon Sproule and Mike O'Neill come together to release Colours?

Individually, Sproule and O'Neill are formidable songwriting talents, so expectations for Colours are justifiably high.  Unfortunately, the whole is somewhat less than the sum of it's parts.  Colours is a relatively tentative and pedestrian record.  It feels like a long, drawn-out feeling out process.

Perhaps for fear of offending the other, neither songwriter seems willing to assume the reins.  As a result, tracks like "The Fan" and "Talk To You" come across as ineffectual compromises.

Sproule's strength is her vocals.  On her own albums she delivers some absolutely gorgeous performances.  She never quite reaches that level on Colours, but she does have some standout moments, not the least of which is the alluring finale "The Shallow End".  She and O'Neill combine for a cutesy (in the good way) back-and-forth on "The Fire Inside".  Their harmonies are spot-on for the methodical "Magic In the Panic".

It's in the arrangements that things really fall apart.  In the positive column we have the title track, which mixes a quirky twang with computer effects and the loose, imploding "Nobody Tells Me a Thing".

Detracting from that are songs like "Walking In the Folly".  The lounge-meets-folk vibe is too restrained.  It seems begging to be taken to a greater extreme.  So too does the lead track "You Can Come Home".  The song builds tension masterfully, but it never results in release, which it desperately needs.

There have been far far worse records than Colours that have come out this year.  However, this one leaves you with an overwhelming feeling of 'meh'.

Best tracks: "Colours", "The Fire Inside"

Track listing for Colours:
  • You Can Come Home
  • Magic In the Panic
  • You Can't Help It
  • Colours
  • The Fan
  • Walking In the Folly
  • Talk To You
  • The Fire Inside
  • Nobody Tells Me a Thing
  • The Shallow End

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