Newton Faulkner - Hand Built by Robots
As a reviewer I feel I am required to maintain some air of objectivity, but I find this hard, as on first listen I was already head over heels in sound love with Faulkner's debut “Hand Built by Robots”. I am in too deep, the album combines touching and sentimental lyrical proclamations, extensive use of rippling acoustic fingerstyle guitar, and delicious Eric Roche styled creative guitar techniques including percussive effects and finger tapping.
Though the acoustic guitar features heavily on the album, with “Feels like Home” and “Uncomfortably Numb” being near fully acoustic and aptly named “Sitar-y Thing” only acoustic plus a sitar, many tunes such as “Dream Catch Me” and “I Need Something” include drums, keyboard and other backing effects to lift the tracks from acoustic whispers to pop proclamations. “Straight towards the Sun” and “Lullaby,” are based around crystal clear piano chords with naked vocals, which will ripple still waters. The introspective quality of many of the tracks just might leave you taking a moment to look at yourself a little deeper. The brief snippet “Lullaby” falls short in length but makes up for it in weighty emotional effect "if you’re not lost I guess that makes you found".
“All I Got”, with riffs that sound a little like the Beatles’ hit Blackbird, cuts straight to the sentiment whilst avoiding sappiness, a feat achieved by many of Faulkner’s tracks. It feels like the musical form of a beautiful summer’s day where everyone has a smile for you. The percussive effects in “Feels Like Home” and “Teardrop” are nothing other than the dextrous sound of bare hand slapping on the wood of the guitar body between strums, a skill doubtlessly acquired by Faulkner under the tutelage of the sadly departed fingerstyle legend Eric Roche in the early Noughties. Second single and love song “Dream Catch Me” has a Jimmy Eat World feel with jangly chords, emo sentiment, and choir-like quality - this had me belting out "I can’t believe I’m falling!" into my hairbrush…
Just when the album takes a dip in entertainment value, with a dull and somewhat indulgent cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”, Faulkner quickly recovers by injecting a sense of humour: “Gone in the Morning” is a quirky groove of a tune that squeaks "I’m going to live in a tiny zoo". And amusing ballad “UFO” warns "watch out for the anal probe." Newton is not afraid to tackle unusual yet relevant subjects in his lyrics, with “Feels Like Home” explaining a break-up from the viewpoint of the ‘dumper’, whereas the tenuous yet vital links we have with others are discussed in “Aging Superhero” which confides "the superhero in me is tired”.
Ultimately a groovy, laid back and chilled out album; have a think, enjoy the sunshine, have a rest after a stressful day. Don't know what to do? Take some advice from Faulkner and his lovely ginger dreadlocks. Told you I wasn’t going to be objective.