Nathaniel Sutton

Nathaniel Sutton

Written by: TL on 06/06/2011 23:48:41

When first I reviewed a Nathaniel Sutton record, it was the little known Canadian singer/songwriter's debut LP, and in honest I didn't then, nor do I now, have many positive things to say about it. It was an amateurish, if well-meant, composition of cheap effects, sappy guitar playing and sub-par singing, and it basically discouraged me from wanting to listen to any more of Sutton's music in the future.

That was until I heard the more simplistic and subtle song "Far More", on the recent Emo Diaries volume 12. On here, Sutton had tuned down the electronics, gone for a more traditionally emo guitar sound, and most importantly, found a way to get the best out of his somewhat limited singing ability. The song stood out on a compilation that wasn't bad all together, and hence, Sutton had effectively gotten me on board with checking out his progress on his self-titled sophomore album.

The good news is that, for the most part, the observed progress in "Far More", also holds true in the songs on "Nathaniel Sutton". The minimalistic acoustic guitar-playing dominates the soundscape, and although extra effects and instruments make occasional appearances, it is strictly in roles that support a subtle, atmospheric mood, that sounds somewhat like bands like Mineral or Joie De Vivre. Those expecting to find more tinges of synth, like the Hellogoodbye/Owl City-ish tendencies that I seem to remember from "Starlite", will be disappointed, but Sutton's music is, in my opinion, all the better for it.

Another improvement is, as hinted earlier, the improved singing. Sutton seems to have gotten a better feel for the areas in which his deep and rather limited range sounds decent, and have even gone so far as to use samples to sing harmonies with himself on occasion. That being said, there's still a considerable stretch from saying this, and to saying that Sutton is a particularly interesting singer to listen to, and considering how minimalist the actual music after all is, then the combined product of the two is also quite a skinny offering.

With average singing and slim instrumentation, Sutton could still redeem himself however, had he included some moving or otherwise interested lyrics. However, while I admit I have not analyzed the words in any depth, songs such as "Age Of The Dinosaur" and "Zombies Are Everywhere" seem to indicate a similarly low level of ambition in this area. Even this could be excused though, if there were any tracks that had a bit of the elusive stand-out quality, but in honest, I am also hard pressed to point out any of such.

So for all of Nathaniel Sutton's commendable improvements, his leap in quality only stretches, as far as my measuring goes, from the realm of 'poor' to that of 'average'. If I were to offer some advice, it would be to not change so much in terms of how the actual music is constructed, and rather focus on getting more out of the vocals, as well as trying (as I suppose any artist always should) to write songs that better engage the listener. That and to maybe cut back on the amount of material. Fourteen tracks of this stuff is a lot of - I'm sorry but - mediocrity, for the listener to take in, and it would only help Nathaniel Sutton's songs I think, if each was cared for more individually, and didn't have to risk drowning in such a relatively large number of similar sounding tracks.


Download: WingTech 3000, Groggy Morning
For The Fans Of: An idea of chilled, casual, emo-tinged singer/songwriter-type music

Release Date April 2011

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