The first song on this project entitled The Upper Tunist is an organic and dramatic, piano-led folk-ballad that seems soaked in a certain fusion of traditional Irish folk and something you might find on an Elton John album. Naturally, you form an expectation as to the rest of the album’s nature, but in most cases you’re likely to get it wrong. The Convoy follows the opener and immediately smashes things up a few notches, bringing attitude, a heavy beat, volume, angst, even cursing. One thing that’s for certain though, there are some extremely distinctive threads throughout J. Hunter’s songs – his writing style is incredibly poetic, observational, and reflective, and his voice has a familiarity that drives the whole collection with a comforting touch of character.
Throughout the experience, the artist offers a series of stories that intrigue and often captivate. I’m Mad is an absolute highlight in this regard, and also melodically – the simple set-up, the repetition of that central idea, the endless number of references; it’s a powerful song that quickly gets you addicted to its rising passion. This one feels like a simple classic that begs for repeated plays and a live audience’s approval. Triple Sec follows and leans in an Americana-like direction. Still the piano leads the way, still the story-telling holds tight to your attention. Hunter’s voice sounds different here though, deeper, perhaps a tad more theatrical. You get the feeling this is the work of an entertainer, through and through.
There are a numbering of instances of ‘listing’ in the songwriting throughout this project, the result of which is a phenomenal level of detail, images and ideas being presented to the audience. The Villain is no exception, the rhythm of the vocal feels quick and encourages you to listen more than once. After this, Games Of The Heart offers space, calmness, and a folk-like style of storytelling. It feels like a song partly inspired by the likes of Kate Bush, partly by the more recent unpredictable artistry of Amanda Palmer. Prison Gate follows and delves even deeper into the folk world. There’s delicacy and emotion here, an intimate performance unfolds, loaded with emotion – a welcomed moment at this point within the collection.
Keeping the eclecticism alive and well, Welcome To Hell seeks to re-capture any wandering attention. The vocal effect, the spoken style, alongside of the bizarrely joyful piano, creates a haunting, unsettling, striking few minutes of music. Dig Up The Dead follows and lifts the mood a little, musically speaking. The subject matter is no less dark than anything that came before, but the rhythm and colour of the song feel hopeful and quite energizing. This again I felt was something of a highlight. It’s feels familiar, instrumentally, but completely fresh from a conceptual perspective.
The album comes to a close with Locked Inside. The piano seems to meander freely here, wandering wherever it pleases at first, sounding slightly distant or disconnected. The song that emerges afterwards is dark and again quite theatrical. There’s drama, intensity, an eerie atmosphere and story-line. It’s an unusual way to finish but in a sense you’ve come to expect the unexpected from The Upper Tunist by now. The song showcases madness, mayhem, fiction, fear, and all sorts of things that fall in between. It’s a strangely compelling and quite hypnotic song, and all in all – a great way to finish such a unique album.
The Upper Tunist has a sound that’s his, without a doubt. Worth exploring for the musically inquisitive or those who crave the creative edge and sound of something a little left of the norm.
Find & follow The Upper Tunist on Twitter. Visit his Website for more information.