I thought I would provide an early review of The Conversation. I admit to being a little disappointed with IK. There were some great tracks (STTS,CBD,WL)but a couple of clangers (Horizon - poor lyrics, Show Yourself). Tragically I think Unsinkable was masterful but left unfinished. The production was very conventional which was in stark contrast to the magnificent album that is Feeding the Gods and the transitional album Say It Is So.
With The Conversation the maverick is back and that is good news. Tim succeeds in a couple of his major aims here - the album is sonically interesting(the interplay between Brett's guitar and the violin a highlight)and there is a palpable conversation musically between the players. There is some truly beautiful musical passages - some of this is about arrangements, player skill and that mystery that is groove. Chamber pop is a good description, free of the artifice of tricky production (except for double tracking Tim's vocals a bit which works)however in this type of environment anything that is crappy will show up in a stark way.
Thus the real strength of this album, as Eddie notes in the documentary, is the sheer quality of the songs. On the first playing this album can sound like it is all the same (as Camus indicated)and underwhelming but further listenings find some gems, in fact many gems. It may be Tim's most consistent batch of songs.
I have liked to some extent nearly all things by the Brothers Finn but I am not without a critical vein. In recent times I found IK slightly disappointing as noted above, thought Time on Earth was very good but only occassionally exciting when it pursued new sounds (e.g. Transit Lounge, Your the One) and liked the songs on EIH but found the production inhibiting and untimately bad for the songs.
The Conversation is courageous but takes repeated listens to reveal itself.
Straw to Gold - yes the opening sequence is similar to Eight Miles High but this a really strong opening song with the lyrical theme about the redemption of love somehow undercut by the, at times, threatening music. Great ending with the violin and guitar solo.
Out of this World - another love song to Marie but much more straitforward than the above. Its a very pretty song and a strong vocal. No idea why it is the single - for me it is one of the less interesting songs.
The Saw & The Tree - Excellent. Great lyric and saw solo. Folky, dark with a beautiful chorus.
Slow Mystery - I loved this from the start! The languid rythmn, echoed hand drum and the vocal harmonies are masterful. Quite different to other tracks in style. My only inponderable is the middle eight. I think I like it but is it too understated vocally? (or is that the point!)
Rearview Mirror - Another I loved from the start
Great chorus and a lyric that manages to weave together notions of love, loss and music around the central metaphor of that which is past (as in rear vision). His lyrics are very complete on this album with some suprising twists.
Only A Dream - Hardest song for me to judge. It is lightweight compared to the rest of the album but I think this is both necesary and intentional, given the more heavy duty lyrics in front of and behind it.Playful rythmn and nice whistling
Fall From Grace - Raw, tough and revealing. Its a very good, perhaps even great song. The stripped back ensemble playing suits it. Have I commented on Eddies playing yet? He adds beautiful shadings to many of these track and this one is no exception.
Invisible - Took me a while to warm to this one. Great lyric and some tremendous instrumental work make this a highlight.
Snowbound - Took me even longer to warm to this one.Ha ha like that - warm to Snowbound!! Now it is possibly my favourite. Tim bursts right into this song and it is a bit unsettling at first. The chorus is great and it has the most magical middle eight that emerges from a beautiful musical passage. Brilliant.
Great Return - Very Irish ballad this one. Another love song to Marie I suspect. Took a while to grow on me but now I really like it.
Imaginary Kingdom - Loved this from the start. It is slightly different to other songs on the album in structure and the third person lyrical context. Really good vocals and middle eight.
Forever Thursday - A nice love song with the only drum kit on the album. A solid pop song and some nice relief after some of the heavier themes that precede it.
More Fool Me - Brilliant but painfully so. Perhaps after all the songs about Judd (Charlie, I Hope I Never, Dead Flowers etc) this one might drop the blinds. Excellent use of lyrics from 129 and fantastic ensemble playing. Whatever caused the breakdown in their relationship it appears pretty terminal in this song. There is anger and sorrow rendered in both words and music here.
So I really like The Conversation and I don't think I have really taken it all in yet. As my partner said the other night 'that music is beautiful' That may well be the secret of this album.