Dying Embers’ début gets on the right side of blues, folk, and alt-rock. ‘At War With the Eskimos’ comes out bigger than their constituent parts with more than enough nuances to make it listenable again and again.
Being the brainchild of one man, Dara Ryder, and helped along by a troop of supporting musicians, you may well expect the album to be a bit more self-indulgent. Albums where one man has a band at his will can often come off that way.
There’s a nice modesty at play here and the songs are quite self-effacing. They arrive and leave precisely when they mean to and the LP pulls you along as a result. The whole package is remarkably coherent.
The male and female vocals that drift around the album fit together in a familiar, Arcade Fire vibe and the vocals at the end of Cold Heart almost mimic that quintessential Win Butler with their snatched high notes. But conversely, on Mister, The Birds, echoes of Robert Smith can be heard but only in tone – it’s not mirrored in feeling or content.
And with “Love being both Heaven and Hell”, as The Well will tell you, Dying Embers very luckily strikes on the heavenly side. There are occasional reservations – Ryder’s vocal for example is a niggling worry and you feel that he may lose his poise from time to time – but it’s mostly kept in line. Ryder’s tone does strike as a bit nasal throughout and that can grate at times. But it’s not too big of a mark against him.
All in all this was a very surprising record. When you dip into bluesy-folk, you almost expect to come out wearing a wooly jumper and drinking pints of stout in a country pub. But luckily, the late night stout and Saturday morning protest vibe is absent on Dying Embers first offering and they are very much the better for it. They rose expertly to the occasion.