Album Review: Picture This – Picture This

By on Thursday, 24th August 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

Picture This album coverIrish rockers Ryan Hennessy and Jimmy Rainsford, known collectively as Picture This, showed up in Austin for SXSW 2017 earlier this year with an undeniable swagger about them. Their confidence bordered on cockiness when I interviewed them on-site early in the week. Their brash performance at the Thursday afternoon Full Irish Breakfast only solidified their aura of complete self-assurance.

Following a successful string of singles and an EP release, Hennessy and Rainsford had just completed the recording of their debut LP when I met with them in Austin. They chose to make the self-titled album at Nashville’s Blackbird Studios, with veteran producer Jacquire King (Foy Vance, James Bay) at the helm. Nashville was an inspired choice of venue for the Irish duo, and as it turns out, King’s deft production is a large part of what makes ‘Picture This’ a compelling listen.

Lyrically, the songs on ‘Picture This’ are a bit predictable and formulaic, but the warm, acoustic-based musical arrangements and the momentum of Rainsford’s driving rhythms save them from being overly trite. Hennessy’s lead vocals are stunning stunning throughout, even when his lyrics are slightly awkward, and his gentle Irish lilt is undeniably seductive, though perhaps exotic only to my own American ear. “Take my hand / and we can go walking / and we can talk about whatever is on your mind”, Hennessy invites in the album’s opening track ‘Take My Hand’. The song’s acoustic guitar backing grows into a sweeping chorus with the addition of Rainsford’s pounding drums, and the narrative love story plays out like the plot line of a saccharine film romance, with the protagonist declaring, “I’m no longer scared of your older brother / he said ‘we’re cool man, I know you love her’”.

The remainder of the 13-track album unfolds in largely similar fashion, with most of the songs expanding upon the tried-and-true themes of reckless love and youthful abandon. ‘You & I’ and ‘Let’s Be Young’ pack the same forceful punch on the record as they did in live performance at SXSW. Early single ‘Everything I Need’ further raises the bar with a heart-racing tempo and bright piano melody in the backing arrangement.

Hennessy tries his hand at an intimate ballad in ‘Jane’, where his graceful falsetto makes up for the rather weak chorus lyrics: “you make me feel / that love is real / so pick me up / I wanna lay you down”. His evocative vocal delivery is more effective later in the album on ‘Smell Like Him’, where he exquisitely captures the poignant sense of jealousy in the line “I don’t want you to be happy if you’re not happy with me.” Recent single ’95’ is another sweet ballad with a shuffling rhythm and a gentle piano melody behind charmingly innocent lyrics about being in love for the first time. That charming effect is unfortunately ruined in the chorus, where even Hennessy’s beautiful singing can’t save the lines “I ran down to the square / and I held back her hair / as she threw up everywhere”. Pop contemporary Ed Sheeran recently employed a similarly inelegant lyric in ‘Castle on the Hill’, ruining an otherwise lovely verse. Can we all just agree that there’s nothing romantic about vomit?

The aforementioned Ed Sheeran comparison will undoubtedly surface again for Picture This as their album begins to circulate. Its anthemic pop style is sure to appeal to young audiences looking for easily digestible, radio-friendly hits. Though mainstream pop gets a bad rap among jaded music snobs, new listeners could easily do worse. Jacquire King’s strong production aesthetic lends the album a nice sense of depth, in comparison to the recent trend of production-by-committee pop albums, and he clearly had no need to employ gratuitous studio trickery to make this music palatable. Hennessy and Rainsford are genuinely talented artists, and their emotional content is both universally relatable and undeniably authentic. Crisp, concise and brimming with confidence, ‘Picture This’ is primed to break its namesake band onto the scene in America and worldwide.

7.5/10

The self-titled debut LP ‘Picture This’ is due for release tomorrow, Friday, the 25th of August, on Republic / Universal Records . In support of the album, Picture This will play a headline tour of North America in September, followed by a list of live dates in the UK and Ireland; you can find the details on their official Facebook. TGTF’s full past coverage of Picture This can be found back here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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