From Poland via Canada, Artur Dyjecinski grew up on a diet of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, punk, and Billy Bragg in Vancouver before winding up in London where he has recorded his debut album. Wearing his influences clearly on his sleeves, A Year and Half of Rain is a mixed bag of, at times, effective acoustic country rock and, at times, trite flowerchild cliché.
The opening track, A Song About Her, is an upbeat foot-tapping, jolly serenade. A simple list of a girl’s good points set to some niftily picked guitar might not be the most inventive idea for a song, but amidst the list of the usual nonsense about hair and the way the girl smokes her cigarette, observations such as “the broken hearts that you leave in your path and the serious conversation you make while others laugh”, add an element of darkness that saves the song.
Those Pretty Things recalls Neil Young in his less grand moments, again the anti-materialism sentiment of the song is hardly an earth-shattering innovation for an acoustic-guitar-toting young man with long hair, but it is done with a certain charm. With vocal inflections reminiscent of Devendra Banhart, Punch Drunk coasts along, extending the upbeat opening to the album.
The jollity comes to an end with Untitled Number 1, the non-title of which could be lifted from an old Elliott Smith number, and the melancholy drawl and drunken strings could too. Dyjecinski proves himself more than capable of effective melancholy on this number. And In Greed is a brief snippet of bile that serves as a slap in the face in the centre of the album. This mixture of sadness, vitriol, and country-tinted indie momentarily brings Sparklehorse to mind.
The crowning glory of A Year and a Half of Rain, Sitting Drinkin’ Blues, is as drenched in the traditions of and deference to country-blues as the song’s protagonist is in bourbon. Pedal steel, lazy whistling, and an affected vocal twang combine to marvellous effect.
Sadly though, while there are a few accomplished tracks on the album, Dyjecinski has a tendency towards the Jack Johnsons, which comes to the fore on the latter half of the album. Just A Day and Mmm’Good are ineffectual stoner beach-fire numbers. Soles of Your Shoes is an enjoyable country dance number, but brief respite as closing track Things Will Work Out is instantly forgotten surfer pop.
Dyjecinski invites comparisons with many very good artists, but such comparisons just go to show that Dyjecinsk’s songs aren’t quite as good. This wouldn’t be so bad if he maintained the quality, but throughout the albums 11 tracks, the songwriting takes a nosedive, from foot tapping and rousing to forgettable earcandy. Not without its merits and not without promise, A Year and A Half of Rain is a bit of a damp squib.