Perhaps best known as the frontman of Vermont post-punk band The Static Age, Andrew Paley has never been shy about his penchant for playing solo acoustic songs. Where The Static Age's sound is sound is distantly confrontational and awash with the vivid colours of late nights, Paley's solo work has mostly been more reflective and vulnerable, like the sounds of a folk singer filtering through a desolate log cabin during a dark winter evening.
Paley regularly writes his own solo material between tours and when working on material for The Static Age, so when this ever-growing catalogue of songs seemed too precious to go unheard Sirens was born. This album is collection of songs gathered from recordings in Chicago, and also a log cabin in the woods in Vermont where Paley grew up, alongside tracks that were part of 2014's limited release Songs for Dorian Gray EP.
Sirens launches us into a world where a number of characters take centre stage, and the songs take on the form of directly addressed instances of reassurance and general musings. On "Take Cover" violins become a heartbeat lines the chorus, while Paley promises: "I will make it all better someday, someway". Sirens sees the singer veering between trying to fix others and being lost in situations that he can't control, where he watches relationships deteriorating before his eyes with a tacit acceptance. "Feeling Detroit" sees Paley musing on a dissolving relationship that's expressed through the differences between two of America's biggest cities. Paley sighs, "I feel like Detroit in your New York, I really love to be home." Where some songwriters write songs that are either so ambiguous or so transparent that they become unrelateable, "Feeling Detroit" has perfectly struck the balance: you sink into a world of snow covered train stations and mutual goodbyes where the sounds of acoustic guitar strains linger in the air.
Too often albums like this can go down the route of strictly adhering to one genre of music, but by displaying the sonic flourishes of the standout "Let Me Go" and the Nick Drake-esque bare acoustic stylings of "Surf Street", Paley creates that most elusive atmosphere that can take acoustic singer-songwriters years to deliver with aplomb: he creates an atmosphere that is desolate and wanting, but never lonely.
9.0 / 10
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