Dublin-born singer-songwriter A. Smyth’s debut album ‘Last Animals’ sounds more like the work of an artist who has been around forever. He has for at least a while – his work under the moniker Vann Music earned praise, too. He has been championed by indie folk veteran Badly Drawn Boy and BBC Radio 6’s Huw Stephens, and has been compared to Fionn Regan closer to home, meanwhile having music featured on popular shows like Made In Chelsea and performing at Primavera Pro and All Together Now.
‘Last Animals’ is a cohesive reflection on life and the world at large. Opening with the softly picked acoustic guitars, distant ambience and sleepy vocal of Rain Boys, it flows seamlessly and consistently, leaning on melodic hooks, subtle song dynamics and lyrics that tap into what it means to exist.
The pulsating, playful rhythm of Say You Won’t Mind is cinematic in its presentation, while ‘River’ staggers along, tying itself thematically with When It Calls. Here, Smyth sings “I feel the river in your heart, I know the thunder ‘cause I feel it too” in a hushed tone against a constant beat, dramatic pauses and soft, rippling background noises.
The attention to detail here is staggering. Everything means something, be it the urgency of the tempo changes on Don’t Let Me Down or the dissonant, pitter-pattering synths on Yeah You Said. It all lends itself to the duality of tranquillity or busyness of the introspection that birthed it.
‘Last Animals’ is a masterfully composed offering from A. Smyth. There is much to admire here for fans of indie folk, and subtle affectations that offer something entirely new to the genre. A very rewarding listen, and a very promising debut.