By James Whitlock
Released Friday September 5th, 2014 - Warner Music
The first ten seconds of this album are really interesting. They feature a guitar with slightly bung intonation and a banjo... the sort of thing that one might expect of Robert Plant these days... but I was surprised to hear some electronica in there too - a subtle background swell that I reckon Trent Reznor would be proud of.
It was a cool start to the album and got me interested. Each track thereafter showcases new and interesting ways of blending a traditional ballad-folk feel with something more modern and edgy, and he pulls it off better than I thought might be possible.
For me, the track of the album is A Stolen Kiss which is an awesome mid-album lull... a beautiful ballad that really makes use of his pithy vocal textures. It sounds kinda like a Norah Jones song played at half speed.
A couple of the latter tracks start to revert back to his more typical post-Zeppelin style, where the instrumentation just serves to carry along the meandering, highly reverberated vocal lines... but that's him settling into familiar territory and those who love him will be comfortable with it. It's particularly noticeable in the last track Arbaden (Maggie's Babby), which I have to say ends quite abruptly... sorta just as it's getting started. But I got over this by just starting the album from the beginning again.
I suggest giving it a listen on headphones first so the subtle little crunches, scratches and pops of the interesting production values are made clear. After that though, play it through whatever system you listen to on a lazy Sunday morning, or when you have friends around for a summer barbie.
Overall I liked this album quite a bit more than I thought I was going to. It's nice to know that legends like this can still generate thoughtful and well crafted music.
3.5 / 5