Colourful, organic, catchy, funky, electronic, and ambitious are all words that describe Cork’s Carried By Waves debut album, ‘Softly Held Together‘. It’s a brilliant debut but it could drive his desired style home more. He wants to set himself apart from other electronic artists, so why not push the boat out more on the album?
In many ways, Ronan McCann is another in the long line of electronically minded, one-man-bands that have been sweeping the nation over the last number of months. He plays live, standing behind a laptop, and performs his tunes like many an electronic artist before him.
His tunes are fantastic. Genuinely. But they don’t go are far as they could. McCann flirts with going all out in one particular genre and separating himself completely from the standard electronic styles. There are whispers of Battles, Caribou, My Morning Jacket, Radiohead (if it’s not clichéd to say so), and a good number of other fantastic artists.
But just when you think one of McCann’s tunes is going to break out into a soaring chorus, or some ethereal beat that you can’t quite put your finger on, McCann shies away from it. You get amazing build-ups that suggest wonder, excitement, and childhood dreams fulfilled, only to get a floaty, effected vocal, and an airy synth – the bottom just falls out of the track completely.
The only track comes close to realising it’s full potential and that’s Expecting A Killer. It’s got the full band sound but the snares lack sufficient punch and the overall vibe isn’t fully committed. The commitment issues rear their heads on several occasions. Lights/Climbing Trees is a prime example, where 40 seconds in we almost get what we want – a phat beat – only to have it cruelly taken away.
It could be worse. In fact, it could be a lot worse. But it just seems that Carried by Waves’ tunes have fallen between two stools. McCann needs to make up his mind. He could follow other electronic artists down the one-man-beatfest road, or he could morph, pick up a live band (which is of course, far easier said than done), work his fantastic songs into an even more vibrant form: become a more down-to-earth, pull-no-punches, all-Irish version of a band like Caribou that doesn’t seem mawkish after a dozen listens.
This is not an album to hate for its missed opportunities; it’s just a matter of opinion. ‘Softly Held Together’ is really, really good. The sounds pull you in all the way, and to a certain extent, the giving and taking away of the full-on beats and passages makes one like it more and more. But what is now fantastic could, someday, be mind-blowing.