Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Album: Ray Rumours - Le Pont Suspendu

Le Pont Suspendu
Album: Le Pont Suspendu
Stitch-Stitch, 2009
Rating: ******* (7/10)

Once before, I wrote up a release by Ray Rumours, the solo project of London-based Ros Murray. To put it concisely, Murray's music captures all the wussiness of "twee pop" but replaces the pop with folk. One the one hand, the folk leanings makes it even wussier, but on the other, it adds some much-needed maturity to the whole "twee" thing. Sure, as you may know, wussy acoustic music isn't really my thing, but even to my jaded ears, it's an interesting enough combination to warrant a listen.

Le Pont Suspendu is richer in instrumentation than previous Ray Rumour releases, but this is a mixed blessing. The many instruments really flesh out some songs and add variety to the album. However, the instrumentation includes some of my least favorite sounds - most notably horns and accordion. At best ("Chaussures"), the horns sound vaguely Spanish, while at worst ("October"), they remind me of my high school concert band. (I blame Jeff Mangum for the horn trend in indie music. He should have put a sticker reading "Kids, don't try this at home!" on all Neutral Milk Hotel albums.)

Le Pont is not a pop album and it doesn't have a lot of hooks, but every once in a while, it approaches catchiness. The best example is "Meaningless Words," a charming little jaunt near the beginning of the record. Also, don't miss "Berlin to Poznan." The track opens with some pretty weak moralistic lyrics, but suddenly makes a sharp turn towards the personal, launching into a loving story of an encounter with an old friend. "Puddles and Rain" is also a personal favorite, because it actually has drums! Well, ok, it has drum, singular, but hey, it's a beat.

The more low-key songs, like the simple lullaby "Au Bord de la Mer," are also lovely (when they aren't rudely interrupted by a trumpet, anyway). For the most part, the album is upbeat and happy, or at least positive. There's an undertow of melancholy, though, which occasionally comes to the fore, like the heartbreaking "Ghost," a song addressed to a loved one who has recently died. However, the album's prevailing calm prevents a broader emotional spectrum - you won't find anything like anger, bitterness or even true elation here.

There is something, however, that gives the album a darker side. It's full of presumably intentional "wrong" notes, split seconds of dissonance that somehow both add to the album's quaint innocence and yet give it a tiny glimmer of something more ominous - there are a few moments where I swear I can hear the echo of some long-ago pain still ringing behind the music. Maybe it's not personal pain but rather a collective pain inherent in all honest music; in any case, it deepens the album immensely.

True to the press release, the album's satisfying climax is "Looking For You," which despite featuring an accordion and some of the album's weakest lyrics, stands out as one of its best tracks. It starts out subtly, then swells powerfully into an orchestral wave. The wave breaks on the appropriately-titled closer "Nightime on the Beach in Sydney," another introspective lullaby, bringing a gentle album to a peaceful close.

Ray Rumours on MySpace

1 comment:

L said...

Excellent review of the album. Good writing. Thanks.