Withered Hand - New Gods (2 stars)

Withered Hand - New Gods

A breezy jangle pop record that's conspicuously devoid of any real nuance, intrigue or subtlety

(Fortuna POP!)

It’s a brave thing to make a breezy jangle pop record in the year 2014. Tastes are more sophisticated, audiences are atomised, communal experiences are rarer, music fans are constantly sated yet never more whiney (yes you, you big moanyhole). Yet amid this maelstrom of ever-shifting contemporary mores and the conveyor belt of genres and microgenres, we get Withered Hand’s shamelessly unabashed paean to cosy, warm-bath melodies and charming singalongs. And guess what? It sounds like terribly old hat.

Some people may consider this record a sort of woozy throwback to ‘proper’ breathlessly jaunty songwriting; three-minute pop wonders with swoops and cooing and that necessary soupçon of lovelorn misanthropy. And to be fair, what else it has – to its credit – is its sincerity; it doesn’t sound forced or acted out. Instead, it’s that most terrible of things: nice. These are entry-level songs, inoffensive, unchallenging, join-the-dots acoustic indie numbers, with a healthy dollop of signposted verse / chorus / verse vanilla-ness.

The record is sunkissed and buoyant and whimsical and melancholy and all that vital stuff, but the problem with retreading old musical ground is that our expectations are higher now, our choices are innumerable, our time is precious and we yearn for something MORE (see, I told you, whiney). Dan Willson, whose project this is, clearly has a handy Rolodex, being able to call on members of the Vaselines, Belle and Sebastian and Frightened Rabbit to conjure up his, at times, cosy and pleasant creations and there’s undoubtedly a blithe charm to ‘Fall Apart’ and the title track. But the album is conspicuously devoid of any real nuance, intrigue or subtlety; it leaves this platter of samey morsels in front of you and expects the listener to want to explore, to come back and to keep indulging. Instead you just roll over, bloated with acoustic indie-gestion. Stick a tuning fork in me, I’m done.

Withered Hand - Horseshoe

Celtic Connections Rewind

A weekend showcase of local and global folk acts headlined by Edinburgh alt-folk troubadour Withered Hand on Friday and former Arab Strap melodist Malcolm Middleton on Saturday.

Elsewhere on the web


1. Paul Thomson23 Feb 2014, 3:10am Report

Calling any of these songs 'entry level' immediately renders this review null and void. Dan Willson is the amongst the finest wordsmiths in Scotland. Ignore this review and find yourself another more accurate review, e.g. Mojo.

2. avatar 17 Mar 2014, 10:11am Report

What an odd review, from an odder choice of reviewer. It's to the List's credit that instead of finding a writer who is a fan of Withered Hand - not a hard task - they've instead got an objective opinion from someone whose tastes seem to lean more towards dance music. How easy it'd be to have one of the usual crew give 5 stars to one of the best-known and well-loved local acts. Instead, bravo, The List - the writer seems to be unaware of Willson's acclaimed debut album and the contrast between that and this more expansive, produced effort on a 'big' indie, even expressing surprise at his involvement with some of the big hitters in the local scene. I could go on - but yes, other reviews are available, and with the album available to hear anyway it could be that the days of relying on pieces such as this to inform your musical choices are done.

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