Anthony Donnelly, a.k.a. Floor Staff, has been releasing music since 2014. After a four-year hiatus, he returned this summer, releasing three singles, Aspiration, Empathise, and The Occupants Rotate, all of which would be included on this, his full-length debut, ‘Attention’.
The hiatus has certainly served Donnelly well. The Dublin-born artist had relocated to rural County Kilkenny and spent time as a music teacher, reinvigorating him to create his own music. He now divides his time between Ireland and Como, Italy. The time for reflection that a more rural setting can offer has obviously had a bearing on Donnelly, too, as the songs on ‘Attention’ are achingly honest, examining loss, regret and lessons learned along the way.
‘Attention’ is a dark, sophisticated, alternative pop album. Donnelly favours spacious, airy arrangements that give room for his vocals to soar and to allow for tension to build slowly, the introspective undertones reaching a point of liberation once the music hits its apex. His raw, overwrought vocals are complimented by the album’s lush, harmonious instrumentation.
Mindset, an album highlight, exemplifies this approach, built around a steady drum shuffle, shimmering synths and strings and Donnelly’s affected falsetto. However, ‘Attention’ is chockful of sonic treats. Meticulous attention is paid to vocal harmonies, with gorgeous results throughout. Donnelly’s backing band – Christopher Barry on electric guitar and synthesizers, Oisín Trench on drums, and Gareth Quinn Redmond on violin – deserve credit for their performance here, too. At no point does any instrument outshine the vocal focal point, rather each one understatedly compliments the song and space it needs to fill or provide.
A satisfying listen overall, ‘Attention’ is the sound of a deft songwriter merely beginning to hit his stride. While there is a tendency towards darkness here, there is a certain empathy, sensitivity, and warmth that the listener can identify with and perhaps even take comfort in.