Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Albums you should know #2: King Creosote's KC Rules OK

Fife, Scotland's King Creosote (a.k.a. Kenny Anderson) is a prolific writer of quaint, lovely folk rock. Prolific is almost an understatement--Anderson has self-released over 40 albums in the last decade, usually passed out at live shows or sold on his personal indie label's website, the Fence Collective. Most were recorded in his living room with simple, yet eclectic arrangements and instrumentation. Anderson assembled some of the band The Earlies and headed into a studio proper, and the results were KC Rules OK, a stunning collection of sixteen tunes given a musical spa treatment. 

The album begins with the strum of an acoustic guitar and the low rumblings of a tuba on the hook-laden "Not One Bit Ashamed," a song Neil Finn of Crowded House would be proud of. In it, Anderson laments: "I gave up half my heart and you gave a half-hearted shrug/it's not good enough, it's not good enough" (a perfect lyric--second place only to a line from Odds' "Someone Who is Cool" which goes "Close but kind of meatless/like actors who play Jesus/in movies of the week." Nothing beats that.) The song adds thick, lovely layers of instrumentation and harmonies and builds to a satisfying crescendo. And then Anderson wipes the canvas completely clean for "You Are Could I?," a foot-stompin' barn-burner with a bit of a goofy sheen. He changes gears a lot on this album, creating a seriously unique listening experience.

Fifth track "*678" is a triumph, with swelling organs and a sing-along chorus we can all relate to: "In the back of my mind/I was always hoping/I might just get by." This high is followed by the sweet shuffle of "Locked Together," a gorgeous confessional in which Anderson begs in his Scottish lilt "Don't talk to me/over secrets hard to keep." And then the Willie Nelson-esque "Jump At The Cats" arrives, with bluegrass piano melodies that bring a smile to even the most hardened listener--a smile that will turn somber when they hear the simple, yet striking ballad "My Favourite Girl" (yep, spelled my "favourite" way). An ode to his daughter Beth, it's sung from the perspective of a dying father: "Better listen closely/I guess that I have not got long/Promise you'll tell her/She's my favourite girl/In all the world." 

The mood shifts dramatically again with "So forlorn," with its driving percussion and Al Green-ish wah-wah peddle guitar, followed a song later by album-closer "Marguerita Red," an old live Creosote favourite that truly benefits from the full-on studio treatment, and will leave a lot of listeners in a serene, reflective mood.

A beguiling, gem of a record, it showcases just how effective a melody can be--Anderson is one of our best kept secret songwriters working today, on par with the likes of The Frames' Glen Hansard, The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, and the equally prolific Ryan Adams.

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