The Water's Edge
Like so many other things of great power, the internet can be used as a force for good or evil. An obvious example of this arose last year – as Louise Mensch was saying that Twitter should be turned off during times of social unrest to stop the spread of rioting, various groups of public spirited individuals started using social media to organise volunteers to go and help clear up the devastation that had been caused in their cities. Looking at this principle in relation to music, it was of course the internet that gave us Justin Bieber. But, perhaps in some kind of remorse laden reparation, the internet also made possible the debut album we see here from Luke Ritchie. As the old adage “guns don’t kill people, rappers do” tells us; it is not the medium itself, but how you use it that matters.
In 2010 Luke Ritchie embarked on one of those sorts of internet projects that the mates of people who do these aforementioned projects come to dread. “Oh, you’re going to post a new song every day for a month are you? And repeatedly spam everyone’s wall on Facebook asking them to listen to it and tell you what they think? Even though they think it’s fucking shit, but can’t tell you that, because you’re a mate?” Well, anyway, it was one of those sorts of projects. Except, Luke Ritchie’s songs are actually very good. He set about writing and recording a song a week for six months and posting them as podcasts, and through word of mouth alone they were downloaded 8,500 times. That’s not just mates being polite. He had intended to pick the best ones out for a self-released album - but this is where the real wonder of the internet came in to play.
On the strength of the basic recordings – Ritchie’s acoustic guitar and vocal – two things happened. One was that Nico Muhly [arranger of strings for the likes of Bjork, Anthony and the Johnsons, and Grizzly Bear] decided he wanted to create string parts for several of the songs; the second was that Paul Savage [producer of Arab Strap, Mogwai, and err… Franz Ferdinand] decided that he wanted to produce and record ten of the best songs for the album, The Water’s Edge. So, here it is. And it is bloody lovely. It pleases me that a guy just writing songs for the love of it and hoping to share them with people, can find himself in the position where he has the opportunity to make the best possible album he can. The strings are indeed absolutely beautiful, and the production wonderful from track to track. But as another old saying goes [I’m full of them today]: Shit in, shit out. Another variation being, you can’t polish a turd.
At the heart of this record lies some great song-writing and emotionally inspired performances from Ritchie. It also helps that the melodies are insanely catchy – after only a few listens the tunes were stuck in my head. His eclectic tastes in music are transmitted in the variety of songs showcased throughout the album. There are changes of pace, from the slow and evocative, to the more foot-tapping up-tempo numbers [mercifully avoiding a drift into a waistcoat folk ambiance]. I have to confess that during later listens, I did skip through a couple of the tracks, but not because they were bad as such – but because I knew the track after was amazing and I wanted to get to it quicker. All round, a fantastic debut.
Posted: Fri 10 August 2012