James McArthur And The Head Gardners – Strange Readings From The Weather Station review

Today marks the release of the new album from James McArthur. The Welsh born singer/songwriter recorded his new album, Strange Readings From The Weather Station, at Tin Room Studios in Hackney, London, and Wickham Farm in Welling, the latter of these once being the home and studio of singer Kate Bush. James is joined on the record by The Head Gardeners – Johnny O and Jim Willis – along with a handful of guest musicians.

This is yet another one of those records that deserves describing best in the style of images it conjures – there’s a delicacy in the intricacy of the album that feels too carefully crafted for an accomplishment of human nature. Take the wispy vocals that lay themselves through opening Maelstrom, easily comparable to wind winding itself through grass, wavering strings carrying the mood of the music as much as the lyrics do.

Opening with fingerstyle guitar in Lawn Order, there’s a gradual build up that you would expect to accumulate with a huge burst, yet manages to maintain an understated, controlled sound through the variety of instruments. James manages to match the atmosphere of the music and lyrics perfectly, best highlighted in The Day It Rained Forever, with the crisp, folky sound suiting the slightly strained vocals.

Throughout, the record has a such a high level of control that it’s almost impossible to do anything but stop and appreciate it. By keeping everything to such a low level and with so much detail in the quiet moments, it’s an album that demands your full attention, despite the melancholy side which often seems to prevail past the uplifts the strings interject. Regardless of the moods the album provokes and the talent which is clearly present, it manages to feel too deliberate and precise, which deducts somewhat from the gentle path the earthy music would be expected to carve out. Again, this heavy intention is noticeable in the length of the tracks – where they could easily be fleshed out and allowed to blossom with detail and longer solos, they tend to feel cut short and not reach their full potential, none off the album reaching six minutes. Though Strange Readings From The Weather Station is a powerful album, if there was a little more letting go and allowing the music to take control, it would’ve been even better.

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