With his chiselled Hackney man-about-town good looks and friends in, um, high places – well, he used to share a flat with Mumford And Sons and has toured with Noah And The Whale – you’d be forgiven for thinking Alan Pownall was the latest in London’s seemingly neverending stream of bright young folk starlets.
But his debut album owes more to Jack Johnson and Paolo Nutini than Kid Harpoon or Laura Marling. A sun-drenched, breezy dissection of unrequited love, lost love, passionate love, tender love, confusing love… the aptly named True Love Stories introduces a sensitive, thoughtful young man to the world.
“I wanted the album to be like a jazz festival in the 1940s in the south of France, but set in some dingy bar on a rainy day – like, it would have all those picturesque elements, but slightly twisted as well,” he claims. While the result is more like a sullen gap year student sat alone at night on a desert island, it’s a nice image all the same.
His brand of breezy, lazy summer pop, sung with an American twang, is in-your-face radio friendly. With its simple, mood-setting tunes that stick in your head for days, there’s a warm, crackly, vintage sound to the record that sets him aside from his contemporaries. But other than that, True Love Stories is interchangeable with Johnson and Nutini’s debuts. Still, they both set cash registers ringing.
Highlights, and there are some, include the end of the night sway-fest Colourful Day, in which he croons: “It’s rude to point but attention’s what I want and she told me that I look like David Bowie.” (He does, a bit.) Clara sees him carry on Jack Pe�ate‘s unfinished business. It could have been lifted straight from Pe�ate’s Matinee, and is a pretty, shuffling track that bemoans a girl who dumps him as soon as he shows an interest in her. Similarly, A Life Worth Living is a bouncy daydream about falling for ‘the one’.
The Others taps into a different side of Pownall altogether; it’s a rainy, orchestral ballad that oozes tropical island charm while managing to rake up more musings of the heart, this time about how much better than everyone else his lady is. But the poor boy changes his mind about matters of the heart every three-and-a-half-minutes, and by pouring his heart out in such a public manner, he’s probably frightened off every possible suitor with his near schizophrenic outbursts. He even admits: “I long for the day that I can love someone and they can love me back, I’m just too complex. As soon as they show an interest I’m like ‘Oh no, forget it.’”
It might sound nauseating, and at times it really is, and it sounds dated by a good couple of years too. But that shouldn’t stop it being top of your mum’s birthday present list and floating over the airwaves for the remainder of the summer.