Sixteen original tracks, designed and dedicated to allowing listeners to escape entirely from the weight of the world. McGinley & Cats have crafted and arranged a deeply emotive, musically immersive new collection, and its provocative poetry and ambiance alike are quick to connect.
Folding In And Breathing Out – titles like this prompt a deeper level of thought, less surface-detail more between the lines and images. A mass wave of instrumentalism ensues – before a chorus of vocals, drenched in reverb and heartache, reach out from afar. The rhythm is mellow, but quiet and space soon evolve to become volume and fullness. A touch of Americana, a dash of folk-rock, a hint of Empire Of The Sun or MGMT. A beautifully haunting beginning.
The album goes on to delve unwaveringly into creative freedom and profound story-telling. Expressive vocals meet with dramatic instrumentals, gradually enveloping listeners in a series of compelling ideas and scenes. The Family Ghost is a fine example, poignant for its ability to connect with all of us, one by one.
Elsewhere we find traces of funk, notable Bowie nods (The Lemmings Fall) and numerous other examples of classic and progressive inspiration. The album’s title track is a mellow live-jam that encapsulates the band’s approach well. This entire session appears as if right there in the room with you. Layers of improvisation and intention intertwine.
Certain traits keep threads alive throughout. The doubled vocals, the dreamlike lack of clarity, the instrumental layers weaving out and around each other. Conceptually too, there’s a sense of wonder and longing – sometimes it’s observational, sometimes it looks inward. From Young Hearts through You See Me, the mood and pace change significantly, but you’re able to continue on with your contemplation amidst the ambiance.
From moments of acoustic softness, to psychedelic experimentation, this sixties sense of distance stands tall. Occasionally things take a long-form stream of consciousness pathway, at other times they stick to short rhymes and references; with catchy riffs and licks to connect the dots. Think Of Me blends the two approaches, offering the lightness of funk yet considering the purpose of the self on a heavier level. Then Lost In The Medina smoothes over the rhythm with a level of sadness and uncertainty.
While the songwriting is fascinating, the inside-the-tin effect leaves you feeling a little isolated – a live show is undoubtedly where these songs would really come alive. Having said that, the way McGinley uses poetry to explore common topics in a new and compelling way, is valuable in the recorded, home setting. This Beautiful Boat and Ugly Ship Of Mine holds attention for precisely these qualities. The story walks the line between metaphor and literal description.
A last flicker of Bowie hits for Your Embrace, before a powerfully cinematic The Entombed Alchemist Returns brings things to an epic and intense finish. Multiple string sections collide and rain down, joined soon enough by retro, distorted synths, and finally, a wonderfully uplifting drop into rhythm and brightness. Still that live-jam, uncoordinated freedom stands tall. Hopefully there are video clips to come.