McHale’s album City Of Walls is extremely likable right from the start. House of Leaves emerges and offers everything from crisp, organic presentation, to softly raspy vocals and depth of songwriting. The poetic aspects of the song add so much to its overall strength, but really all of this is just detail – the complete experience is one that impresses in an instant. It’s a huge sound, genuine and warm, inspiring and hopeful, intelligently crafted. Bringing together elements of pop and folk alike, even rock to an extent. House of Leaves kicks off the album in a brilliant way and the rest of the project refuses to fall below par.
As you listen to this playlist, you get a strong sense that McHale is a songwriter by nature. It’s not the genre or the style that grabs you, it’s the ideas, and the weight and passion with which they are presented. Moon Fisherman follows the opener and offers even more in the way of metaphorical depth and musical brightness. The organic set-up is a pleasure, as is the clean finish that allows you to turn up the volume and escape entirely into the moment.
McHale’s voice has the perfect qualities to give a very genuine feel – gentle when necessary, bold at other times, always heartfelt and authentically connected to the words he sings. The artist spent five summers straight working as a fisherman in Alaska – undoubtedly this immersion among nature has lead to a creative reach that’s uninhibited; that’s natural, free, and expressive.
There are too many great songs on this album to go into depth about why each one works so well. To listen is the way to experience it fully, that’s the intention and that’s how it should be received. For the most part, this music falls somewhere between Eddie Vedder, Jack Savoretti, and Mumford and Sons – musically, perhaps lyrically in some respects. Really though, this feels fresh and is perhaps more enjoyable than any of those at this particular moment.
Settle Down is a huge song with another big beat and a positive outlook. Hurt afterwards is less hopeful and deals with difficulty, it throws in a touch of electronic ambiance and a distant sound. There’s an anthemic feel with rhythm and space and short lines. The song gathers momentum slowly and the intensity sweeps you away with it. There’s a personal and literal touch that lets you feel closer to the songwriter and his personality. The lyrics are well worth hearing more than once to let it all sink in and connect as it should.
Hollow Sights is another beauty for its honesty and intimacy combined. There’s a darkness to the tone and the notes, which represents the concept well. McHale’s voice sounds particularly stunning here. A personal favourite from the album and a moment at which you’re likely to realise this music way outshines the vast majority of indie releases for its depth and grit and skill combined.
Down the Line adds a moment of folk-rock rhythm, a mellow groove and a piano backdrop, further short lines and a simple melody that rises up for an effective hook. The leading riff between vocal moments is lovely, easily recognisable. Night After Night follows and introduces a slight Kings Of Leon vibe. A live performance of all of these songs should be unmissable for those who stumble upon the chance.
Cyberspace Cowboys is perhaps the most musically unusual track on the album, no less interesting though – far from it. Hopeful rock distortion accompanies contemporary references in a colorfully alternative manner. Then you get the raw funk bounce of Lone Rider, an Americana-soaked moment that again stands out for its change in style. It adds further eclecticism and helps keep the album appealing and entertaining right the way through.
Whatever the genre or the energy or the concept, McHale embraces and masters it with this approach to music. As suggested, he’s a songwriter by nature, and you can hear this every step of the way. A superb album from an artist well worth tuning in for.