Stuart Lawrence’s debut is a grandiose display of rich folk, adorned with nuance and detail that made each listen of every other song a rewarding experience. One is a triumphant display of one man’s passion, knack for a good melody, and solid musicality.
Based in the English town of Fareham, Lawrence’s sound is distinctive with his use of deeply mixed acoustic guitar and booming bass, mixed with his often-outlandish chord structures and perky melodies, the outcome stands out, is peculiar, compelling, and quite blissful. Among the album’s early surprises we have the rowdy ‘To the Limit’, which was enough to showcase Lawrence’s ability of venturing into alternative rock territory. With the song’s machine gun beats, mischievous interplay of time signatures, and the howls of the distorted guitar lead lines, ‘To the Limit’ is a delightful left turn in the album after an introduction made of two gorgeous folk cuts. ‘If I Stay’ follows, introducing yet another facet to the abilities of Lawrence. This time the singer and songwriter heralds in the harsh softness of a rock ballad that talks of a heartbroken protagonist trying to make up their mind whether to stay in or break up a relationship, and Lawrence’s vulnerable, understated delivery does a brilliant job in displaying the anguish and confusion in the situation, on top of the song’s thunderous but understated instrumentation, bookmarked by a solid, simple beat, in turn pockmarked with terrific fills, and a twisting, melodic bassline, and melancholic chords and melodies.
The graceful ‘Screaming Blue Murder’ features a quite dazzling arrangement of guitars. Overdriven and clean, rhythm and lead, the performance and lines are deliciously impactful, and the tones are brilliant, along with the spaced-out mix, that is a mainstay during the songs on this album. A clear stand out dotting the album’s halfway point. ‘Is This What They Call Love’ is a beautiful cut that bridges the gap between Lawrence’s colors of folk and rock. This wonderful number has it all. The witty, loving remarks, the memorable beats and arresting atmospheres created via the composition, open, airy, and welcoming, and the sublime production. Another easy favorite, with its sudden bursts of gut-wrenching colorful chords that leave a sharp tang for a while after the song is over. The elegant ‘Questions’ is another piece that stands out. Defining the album’s last quarter, this gentle piece and its heartbreaking lyrics are home to one of the album’s warmest and most delicate compositions, and the contrast between the song’s soft heart and the arresting, sad words is exactly what makes it one of the album’s most humane and relatable songs.
From the album’s very first notes on ‘One’, the title piece, and its bold use of surprising, attention grabbing chords, and from the gradual increase in the pace, the brushed snare and gnarly bass tone, the shape shifting rhythm section, and the captivating strings arrangement, it was clear to me that Stuart Lawrence is a man that deserves a good listen, and paying close attention to the detail in his songs was incredibly rewarding. An artist who does not shy away from longer songs is a sign that they have something that needs to be said, and while the song lengths may alienate some listeners with exceptionally short attention spans, those of us who give his songs a good try will know that what Lawrence has to say, both lyrically and musically, well deserves the time. I mean, just listen to the dazzling atmospheres he creates on ‘Tanuja’. Listen and tell me you can’t spot the man’s tenacious musicality.