Tom McShane -‘The Ural Winter.’ (self-released)
Another singer-songwriter? Hell, no.
I first came across Tom McShane when he released a split single with another Northern Irish act, Escape Act, back in 2008. The song was called ‘Fighter.’ Whilst Escape Act put out a couple of singles through us here at 17 Seconds Records and have released two albums so far, Tom had much more of a battle.
In correspondence with me, he’s spoken about a battle with depression (something I can relate to all too well – by the way, he said he was happy for me to mention this in the review, so this is not me divulging personal and private stuff). He experienced an abortive attempt at making an album four years ago, that lead to him withdrawing from music. He went on a personal pilgrimage to the US and played some solo shows there, rekindling his love for music. In the end, this album was recorded live in one day, in front of an audience, in Belfast in 2010. As he notes on his bandcamp page ‘This wasn’t a live album per se as the audience where there to bring the special atmosphere that can only be generated by performing to a crowd. The tension was raised further by the banning of over-dubs and attempts for each song being restricted to one per session, of which there were two. ‘
And it’s brilliant. Songs like ‘Love Is Hard’ and the title are not just haunting songs, but the way they have been recorded and performed leaves you with a feeling of something very special and different. Produced by Tom with Rocky O’Reilly, the effect is that of a lo-fi Phil Spector. It’s an intimate wall of sound -and comparisons may very reasonably drawn with the likes of eagleowl and Low. And as songs like ‘One Man Band’ demonstrate, many many moments of loveliness lie within.
The birthing process leading to this album may have been hellish, but for us, the listener, this is something very special indeed.