Album: Elrichman – Heaven’s Mayor review

by Chris Hatch

Elrichman is an act that’s hard to pin down – just as you have him parcelled up as an Of Montreal sound-a-like, or a 1970’s obsessed folk act, he wriggles free and veers off in some other direction.

These side-steps make Heaven’s Mayor an album that is an addictive, beguiling collection of ideas – where the charm lies in constantly guessing what comes next.

Heaven’s Mayor isn’t completely formless, however, at its core it’s a vintage folky, pop album – albeit an experimental one. Album opener, Cop On A Horse brings to mind a mixture of I’m From Barcelona and Mr Ben & The Bens, as it sways from quirky classical guitar to sumptuous, string-laden opulence you would be hard-pressed to pinpoint exactly when in the last 50 years it was recorded. Its lyrics, however, let slip a contemporary reference – the eponymous Paul Elrichman contemplating the odd juxtaposition of the modern and the ancient, the natural and the man-made as he conjures up the absurdly real image of ‘a cop on a horse, texting’.

Recorded at the legendary (but now sadly closed down) Toronto studio, The Hive, Heaven’s Mayor follows on from 2014’s Young, Healthy, and Wonderful LP. And while his latest outing possesses some of the quirky, staccato pop of his debut, this time its coated with a glossy veneer, with lyrics that have a tongue in cheek introspection, dealing with aspects of his role in the world, such as ‘feeling ridiculous being a male guitar-playing singer-songwriter in this age when lord knows there’s been enough of us.’

Ideas whirl around freely as the album unfurls. Around one corner lurks the kitschy, upbeat early work of The Cardigans, around the next you’ll find a restrained, earthy, organic take on Tame Impala’s hypnotic groove; look further and you’ll find a snippet of Beatles-esque trippiness. While Elrichman has the confidence to let his ideas run free, his real mastery comes in giving the album the same textural feel throughout; string orchestrations, saxophone flourishes, and interwoven guitar parts colour the songs within – as a result, none of his musical detours feel out of place. The finest example of this is album highlight, Seeking Grey Skies – a track that gradually blossoms from humble, indie-pop beginnings to sky-shattering levels of Forever Changes-style grandiosity.

Heaven’s Mayor’s universe is one that is filled with rich, vivid imagery, playful compositions, and a menagerie of ideas that blur into each other in a haze of piano ad-libs, stately string swells, and lyrics that tantalisingly tiptoe towards the abstract. It’s a formula that makes for a wonky, folk pop record that’s excitingly experimental, without being impenetrable or alienating. With one foot in the past and one in the present, Elrichman is a songwriter who has a unique outlook both lyrically and musically.

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