(Double A-Side Records, out Fri 20 Oct 2017)
Barbe Rousse (French for “red beard”) is an apt choice of moniker for Edinburgh songwriter Alasdair Kelly. Not only does he sport a red beard himself, but his music has a certain Gallic quality. Literally so in the French language Intro, but it surfaces elsewhere too, like in the floaty sixties lilt that opens next track The Beginning Of… and the jazzy opening of P.I.
Then again, there’s any number of strains of influence to be detected in Misc. Muses, but none too strong as to define it. There’s some lazy transatlantic wooziness a la Mac De Marco or Beck. There’s the bedsit bard vibe of Badly Drawn Boy. But there’s hints of other more unlikely sources of inspiration too. There’s a sweeping power ballad piano-guitar climax to Limbo, and when he runs out of things to sing about on What If We Run Out Of Things To Talk About there’s some country-rock guitar riffage. Ultimately, it still feels Scottish, and not just for the Scotrail announcer sample at the end of Train of Thoughts.
There are a lot of layers to Misc. Muses. Kelly gives it a remarkably full, rich production for something recorded in a Leith flat. Your Dad would say how it was amazing what technology can do these days. The man also shows flashes of wit too. “You say the way that I do the dishes reflects how I am as a lover / not always clean or particularly thorough” he sings on jaunty closer We Went On A Consolidate, the album’s Digsy’s Dinner.
Only occasionally does the production time and effort spill over into something a bit too much. The vocals tend to be over-treated and breathy. Something grittier in the mix might balance out the more syrupy moments. But the overall impression is positive – a pleasing debut from the copper facial fuzzed one.