There are certain things you can take for granted from Tom McRae – high fibre songwriting and a bit of quiet soul-searching delivered in his slow-blinking, sleepy croak. Don’t worry McRae fans, that’s all there still on All Maps Welcome. But there has been a subtle revolution too.
The change is partly in the arrangements. Lots of pretty acoustic guitars and mournful cellos of course, but in place of the self-conscious experimentation of previous album Just Like Blood there is a widescreen bombast lurking in the background and the slight aroma of cash. In fact if you picked up the stately and subtly epic backing of ‘The Girl Who Falls Downstairs’ and shook it you might expect a bunch of tenners to fall out of the creases. This is a posh sounding record. Like the sort that grown ups make.
But rather than sounding like a desperate crossover lunge for the hearts of Radio 2 listeners, it actually feels like McRae has relaxed. The gaucheness is gone, he’s stopped trying to be too clever, and instead made a well balanced and measured bit of coming-to-terms-with-adulthood-orientated-folk-rock.
Admittedly on ’Silent Boulevard’ this goes a bit far and he sounds at times worryingly like Bryan Adams singing over The Bends era Radiohead, but such lapses are rare.
This might not be an album which turns the world on its head, but it’s elegant, tasteful and probably his best yet.
7Julian Ridgway's Score