by Philip Moss
Some of this year’s best records have come from lone troubadours. James Yorkston produced the wonderful The Route to the Harmonium at his converted fisherman’s loft space in Cellardyke, and The Tallest Man on Earth conjured I Love You! It’s A Fever Dream in his apartment in Brooklyn. Now, Fionn Regan is the latest to release a career best record – which he has written and recorded at his home in Bray, Ireland.
Cala’s first two tracks are by far the most immediate – so beautiful that they’ll grab your heart and run away with it given half the chance. Collar of Fur is a swirl of captivating folk – Regan’s voice is gentle over a Big Thief evoking soundscape, made up of his tickled acoustic guitar, gorgeous choral arrangements and fleeting, ear catching swathes of ambiguous ambience. While as poetic as ever, Head Swim’s uses a timeless melody to depict a love – ‘You’re so pretty – a thousand summers in your eyes!’ – that feels both genuine, warm and sincere.
As the record progresses, the earlier positivity fades on the likes of Brass Locket and Hunting Dog. Glaciers, however, finds the earlier optimism completely absent. Its tone – lyrically, melodically and musically – is more sinister. Acoustic guitars are replaced by rumbling, distorted pianos and gloomy percussion. And the ‘foxtrot in your cha cha heels’ of Head Swim becomes a ‘slow dance’ here.
It’s this blend of light and dark that makes Cala so engrossing. Where one song grabs you by the heart, another slips its hands around your throat – capturing you under their spell. Simply put, this is a stunning collection of hypnotically brilliant songs.
Secret Meeting score: 82