Jeremy Warmsley - The Art of Fiction

In the dying days of 2005, I was lucky enough to witness the live spectacle of Regina Spektor. Before proceedings began, I had to nip to the loo - cider was to blame - and I have to admit to being slightly taken aback when a young gentleman wearing braces unzipped at the urinal next to mine. 'Trendy young music fans' I thought dismissively, going on to wash my hands while the bespectacled man continued to wee. Imagine my astonishment then when that young man stepped up on the stage, being Ms Spektor's support act, and went on to deliver an impressive set of five or six songs. He was the ideal warm-up for the main act, his brand of lush experimental pop sharing Spektor's lyrical bite. Now, after releasing a couple of sought-after EPs, the French-reared London-based 22-year-old is releasing his debut album. So, can the material produced by this one-time support act justify a headline gig?

Recent single I Believe in the Way You Move is one of the highlights, its combination of brass, handclaps and little girl backing vocals lending a Sufjan Stevens feel to proceedings. The likes of I Promise, with its marching drum beat and plinky plonky piano, and 5 Verses fall into the same category of skewed, but ultimately uplifting, love songs. The latter fuses electro beats, clipped keys and great use of backing vocals to create a kaleidoscope that colours the song's central encounter between two lovers. In this sense, the song is also a good example of Warmsley's sense of song as a storytelling medium, making the album's title all the more apt. Whilst universal in the themes they deal with, the eleven tracks here tend to incorporate characters and specific situations - the titular character's journey in Jonathan and the Oak Tree, for instance.

Away from the quirky romances, Fiction is a strange and eclectic creature. The electro drones and laptop blips 'n' bleeps of the aforementioned Jonathan and The Young Man Sees the City as a Chess Board contrast with the epic piano-led I Knew That Her Face Was a Lie, a song that describes a youngster's experience of witnessing a sexual coupling and contains the killer line 'I heard Disney strings that took them to a place I didn't recognise'. If that weren't enough, we're treated to something that doesn't come along often enough: a song about masturbation! Modern Children's euphoric chorus ('Guilty little girls, guilty little boys... make themselves feel good') nearly matches the sheer glory of the anthemic Dirty Blue Jeans, where flurries of strings and piano compete for attention in a race with Warmsley's rich vocal.

It's only the final three tracks that let the side down. A Matter of Principal and If I Had Only (which, admittedly, contains some brilliant imagery and cutting lyrics like 'I've seen the future strapping bombs around her waist') are perfectly fine examples of 'folktronica' but fail to live up to the heights previous tracks scale. Hush, on the other hand, is a completely pointless and dull excuse for an outro.

Although the last handful of songs are adequate enough, it is a shame that the record doesn't go out with a Dirty Blue Jeans-esque bang. If this album was a fictional novel it would be the kind that is fresh and riveting throughout but then loses a little of its spark during the last few chapters. However, despite drawing on everything from Bowie to Aphex Twin, Jeremy's take on songwriting is original enough to forgive him this slight lapse. In short, this is an album to devour and should go on to top the bestsellers list.

Overall

7

out of 10

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