Stu Larsen

Vagabond

Written by: HES on 01/08/2014 16:38:30

I found out who Stu Larsen was when I once visited Vega to see Passenger, and the two of them teamed up must've unfrozen something in my cynical writer's heart because ever since I have been a steadily increasing admirer of Larsen's straightforward Australian tunes - helped healthily along by his charismatic live performances - live performances that will perhaps make me inclined to love this album more than it might deserve. But allow me to make my case for this up and coming singer-songwriter:

Stu Larsen was once working in a bank, but decided to drop out 70's style and tune in to the many roads of the world, hence the title of this first full-length of his. His hair has grown since and so has his beard, but not to hide the coming of age lyricist he remains to be. Many of the stories of "Vagabond" are the stories of a traveling man and the heartaches a life on the road will eventually lead to - not only romantically but certainly also the spiritual kind (or whatever word might fit better). His companion on many of these adventures, Mike Rosenberg of Passenger, also helps out on backing vocals - but trust me, this album is all Larsen.

The album contains not only sad love songs, but also reflective, rhythmic road songs of which the narratives could make many a country cowboy jealous. The scene is ever changing from Dublin, San Francisco to Larsen's native Australia. "King Street" is a tale of homelessness that slowly reveals the common narrative of Larsen and the homeless character. The swinging characteristic of Larsen's melody writing reminds me of a bluesier Jeff Buckley especially on songs like "I Will Wait No More" and "Ferry To Dublin". But it's mainly in his portrayal of love and longing on songs like "Maybe I Am" that truly is a testament to his way of using women to symbolically represent both longing to stay and the need to leave. Because although the vagabond-analogy seems a bit banal, this album in the most beautiful way describes our longing for new and loss of old, but precious connections.

The album is minimalistically recorded and produced. Where many singer songwriters borrow musical support on albums, the soundscape on "Vagabond" is comprised of two key elements: Stu Larsen and his guitar. Had it been me laying out the blueprints for this record I'd even have considered leaving it even more raw, but I understand that some broader appeal could've been lost by doing so. Even though Larsen manages to show how he is vocally superior to many of his colleagues in the field, it still surprises me that things like his beautiful falsetto needs to be hidden in a mix of voices in the end part of "I Will Wait No More" - It might be because I know that falsetto could make you feel like your bones were breaking had it been live. In general the choir is a bit overused as well as the quiet, yet detectable strings on every down tempo song. Thus it's on the more upbeat songs Larsen truly wins over this album with the folksy "Thirteen Sad Farewells" and "Darling if You're Down". Songs like "Some Kind of Gypsy", "Far Away From Here" and "Skin and Bone" never really make a lasting impression, but doesn't shatter the whole. Overall "Vagabond" is a solid experience, but with more pull than punch, best experienced with ones head tilted towards a window of an adventurous bus, train or plane - or in substitute dreaming yourself away on your daily commute. If you’re in doubt of this man’s talents, I’d suggest you to listen to the “San Francisco”-track of this album and tell me honestly, that that is not beautiful.

Download: San Franscisco, Thirteen Sad Farewells, Maybe I am
For the fans of: Jeff Buckley, Paul Simon, Dave Matthews
Listen: Facebook

Release date 14.07.2014
Nettwerk

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