Album Reviews

Charles Watson – Now That I’m A River

(Moshi Moshi) UK release date: 18 May 2018

Charles Watson - Now That I'm A River The evolution of Slow Club has been a fascinating one to watch. Since their debut of endearingly ramshackle indie folk, Yeah So, in 2009 their sound has evolved into that of sleek, often heartbreaking, soulful pop – and the musical differences between Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson have become ever more obvious.

That’s not a bad thing – indeed, it could be argued that Slow Club’s strengths lay in that push-pull between Taylor’s more poppy sensibilities and Watson’s love of more traditional folk/blues. Yet by the time of their most recent album, One Day All Of This Won’t Matter Anymore, their respective musical personalities were most obviously asserting themselves.

Now the duo are on temporary hiatus, which gives both parties the chance to develop those personalities even further. Taylor is currently recording her debut solo record as Self Esteem, but first comes Watson’s debut. It’s that last Slow Club album which is used as a jumping off point for Now That I’m A River. Although the producer of One Day, Matthew E White, isn’t involved (instead, it’s long-term Slow Club collaborator David Glover who’s behind the production desk), there’s very much the same relaxed, laid back atmosphere.

Opening track Voices Carry Through The Mist gives a pretty good idea of what to expect – an almost dreamy, low-key slice of Americana. Like a lot of Watson’s material with Slow Club, it takes a couple of plays to really sink in, but once it does there’s an unusually addictive quality at play. It’s a song (and indeed album) to soak up, to lie back and luxuriate in.

The first half of the record continues at a similarly leisurely pace, with You’ve Got Your Own Way Of Leaving shuffling along beautifully, and Love Is Blue adding some colour to the musical texture with a brass section. The title track, too, has a weirdly woozy quality to it, which makes it ideal summer listening for lazy days, while one of the standout tracks, Wildflower, is just gorgeous, full of stately piano chords and comforting lyrics like “don’t fixate on the future if you’re scared”.

While this is never an album that would be described as ‘edgy’, there’s a surprising amount of experimentation on display. Abandoned Buick is built on a squelchy riff composed on a Yamaha YC30 and soon casts off its reserve to become a genuinely funky workout. No Fanfare has some gorgeously multi-tracked vocals, and closing track Everything Goes Right has a genuinely uplifting, cathartic feel to it – when the brass section kicks in during the final 30 seconds you’ll almost feel like punching the air.

It makes perfect sense that these songs form the basis for Watson’s first solo foray – they wouldn’t have worked on a Slow Club record, and the more relaxed atmosphere has given Watson and Glover space to experiment with different soundscapes and production technique. Some may miss Taylor’s presence and powerhouse vocals, but Slow Club fans will still find plenty to enjoy – and the uninitiated will be able to hear a truly talented songwriter coming into his own at last.

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Charles Watson – Now That I’m A River