Robert Gomez - Brand New Towns
Bella Union are fast establishing themselves as one of the most important record labels out there. After putting out excellent albums by Howling Bells, Fionn Regan, Midlake (not my view exactly, but the masses seem to like 'em) and My Latest Novel last year they've managed to find themselves the hub of exciting and different artists. Robert Gomez is another find. Harking from Denton, Texas (home to other Bella Union residents Midlake and Lift To Experience) he was spotted at SXSW back in 2005 and signed. He's absorbed plenty of musical influences from touring with Middle Easter musician Omar Faruk Tekbilek and playing with Cuban guitar with Nelson Gonzales who, I'm reliably informed, is one of the greatest players in Cuban musical history.
The person who instantly springs to mind whilst playing Brand New Towns is Elliott Smith. The vocals are hushed and accompanied by gentle folk-ish music; you could close your eyes and quite easily imagine Smith was back in 2007. Opener Closer Still is all gentle acoustic guitars and skipping drums with Latin sounding electric guitars pattering in the distance. All We Got has a dreamy quality, the vocals feel as though they're floating over the simplistic guitars and drums with the hint a brass section just embellishing it.
The songs may deal with the usual themes of love and loss, but listening to Gomez's soft vocals you could quite easily believe he's been through everything and just about lived to tell the tale. The album has a dark and slightly depressing air about it, but it feels as though the tales are being recounted and told as stories rather than a warning. All twelve songs follow a similar pattern, all delicate arrangements and Gomez's bittersweet lyrics floating over it. There's very little momentum and the album does feel as though it washes over you maybe a touch too easily.
What this amounts to is a debut album full of promise, that whilst not quite topping his label mates in terms of out-right brilliance, hints at a song writing talent that's just emerging.