Album Review: Our Krypton Son – Fleas & Diamonds

By on Tuesday, 21st March 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Our Krypton Son Fleas and Diamonds album coverThe north of Ireland houses a music scene unlike any other. Its tight-knit, supportive community, bolstered by the huge range in musical prowess behind it, is what makes it unlike any other. It offers equal opportunities to its residents in order to grow its musical diversity and push its love of the art. And with Output Belfast bringing huge attention to the small corner of the industry, N.I’s musical offerings are well and truly coming into a light of their own.

One act in particular that has been making strides since 2010 is Derry-based singer/songwriter Our Krypton Son. Known locally as Chris McConaghey, he released his second studio album ‘Fleas & Diamonds’ earlier this month. It follows the success of his 2012 debut self-titled album and is described by McConaghey as “a song cycle about rebirth, the first growl of love and its final wheeze, the squalor and the glamour of it, one season giving way to another.” This close relation to nature and the change in seasons could be linked with the fact that McConaghey took a similar approach to Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, who locked himself in a cabin in the woods in Wisconsin when writing ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’.

Except that McConaghey pitched a tent in an abandoned building, amidst the harsh terrain of a small village in County Derry called Cleeslough. Armed only with his daughter’s toy guitar, his sole mission was to write an album. He wrote in his diary, “It’s bloody freezing and I’m shivering. Shivering with the starling, shaking with the gorse bush but I’m here to write an album, this village and I.” At 46 minutes and 47 seconds of runtime, Our Krypton Son has written 11 beautiful, extremely well crafted dream-pop songs that express a wide variety of emotions, touching on feelings of heartache and passion.

‘Fleas & Diamonds’ begins with a track unlike any other on the album. ‘Winter Taunts Spring’ acts like an ode to the change in seasons. The upbeat, guitar part reminiscent of Southern Irish folk artist Fionn Regan, is opposed by McConaghey’s yearning vocals. Singing about the gloomy and almost lifeless atmosphere that hides in the winter, the juxtaposition between the two key elements in the song, showing how winter physically taunts spring.

Although McConaghey describes the album thoroughly in his writings, ‘Winter Taunts Spring’ as a standalone track brings a sense of ambiguity to the album. However, when taken as a whole, we experience exactly what the opening track displays: the cold and gloomy emotions of heartache against the warm feeling of comfort that comes with love. Tracks like ‘Everything Reminds me of You’, ‘Alaxandria’ and ‘Falling In Love is a Suicide Mission’ hold a Mac DeMarco sense of innocence. With less painful melodies than ‘Can’t Make You Come Back’ and ‘Loving You Is Sweeter’, heart-beating drums, lush orchestral accompaniments and sweeping vocal harmonies, these tracks wrap us in a moment of safety and glee before the light fades and cracks begin to appear.

As the album continues, the push and pull of love becomes more apparent. ‘Relics’ begins the resulting decline of a lost love, but not quite demonstrating the squalor that McConaghey references in his diary. It shows acceptance that the spark has faded, leading to the understanding that the end is expected. The song holds a delicacy within its frail drum machine percussion sound and the deep, flat tones of an organ. The simplicity within the ensemble draws attention to McConaghey’s lyrics, which touch upon the monotonous behaviour that follows the loss of someone or something of importance. With a matching video depicting animations of these actions within day-to-day life, against the backdrop of dull nude colours, ‘Relics’ is an introspective track relating to many different personal thoughts, each as gloomy as the last.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZc8kf4eklg[/youtube]

McConaghey’s songs thusfar suggest a desire to move forward and leave the past behind. Yet as the album comes to a close, he drops ‘Loving You is Sweeter’. The ballad becomes a track about reminiscing that touches on the overbearing amount of thoughts, emotions and actions that comes with looking back, on what McConaghey describes as, “the first growl of love and its final wheeze, the squalor and the glamour of it”. The song is based on one elegant melody that seamlessly flows between verse and chorus, disregarding ideas of conventional songwriting. Its repetitive nature only strengthens the lyrics of love and the object of his affection, while expressing the need to impress them right up until the last lyric, “loving you was sweeter, sweeter in the end”.

‘Fleas & Diamonds’ is the telling of an epic love story, a masterclass on human nature and an honest expression of the array of emotions felt through inner conflict. Our Krypton Son brings this world to life through ingenious, well-crafted songs about the struggle of heartache, contrary to the encouragement of love, and the obstacles that must be overcome when faced with change.

8/10

New album ‘Fleas & Diamonds’, the second by Derry’s Our Krypton Son, is out now via Smalltown America Records.

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