Album Reviews

A Singer Must Die – Today It’s A Wonderful Day

(Grand Harmonium) UK release date: 23 April 2007

A tip for budding songwriters in this overcrowded market: if you want people to listen to what you’re singing about, do it in a foreign accent. This is obviously easier if you are exotic sounding like French/Italian/Spanish singer Manuel Ferrer, vocalist with A Singer Must Die, but not to be sneered at if you aren’t.

A Singer Must Die�s debut album, Today It’s A Wonderful Day, is packed with fallen out of love songs that sound even more charming because of Ferrer’s unusually guttural French accent, and can claim Calum Malcolm, who helped give The Blue Nile and Prefab Sprout that clean, slightly soulless tone to their music, as producer.

There is an elegance to the result, music that uses few elements but arranges them in a complex way with an ear for the atonal. In the first track, The Fallow Land, the spare lines (“A better road was never mine”) are laid over a slowly shifting tonal background, but there is also room for more upbeat, poppy sounds here and there as the album progresses from haunting and unsettling to deep and nasty in musical theme.

Despite the nods to ’60s pop, most of the songs are dark and often brutal, with spital flying from bitchy lips, girls lying with sticky thighs, where love is journey through a desolation zone. By the time we get to the deceptively-titled Easy-Paced Quarter, which starts with a charming man killing his family and goes down from there, it’s wrist-slitting time as the Bowie-inspired word picture unfolds. The lyrics often seize on familiar English phrases – pie in the sky, not out of the woods – and deliver them with deadpan seriousness.

Best songs include the grim The Crash, with its Germanic electro influences, the rough-edged Inadequate, where Ferrer really lets go of his emotions, powering through the vocals, accompanied by shimmering, echoing guitar from his partner Philippe Le Guern and the elegiac, piano-heavy Chasing After Loss. An album for cynics and the sore-hearted.

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A Singer Must Die – Today It’s A Wonderful Day