To spot a failed musician, then look no further than record label proprietors or music journalists. There’s a belief stating- hanging around with pop-stars means their glamour will rub off, and you’ll get a name check from the stage. It doesn’t happen.
So it’s surprising when a former label owner make the transition into recording artist, with a deal and a proper album in their own right.
This is what happened to Luke Stidson. After taking a well-deserved cup of tea when his label Exercise 1 ceased, he started recording under Twin Falls and created this wonderfully woozy and romantic record, Slow Numb.
With Slow Numb Stidson has explored his love of his native Somerset and taken it to the heartland of lo-fi America, a landscape where Connor Oberst and Jason Lytle wander the prairies looking for Sparklehorse rarities.
Self-produced and playing many of the instruments himself, Stidson has stamped his personality on Slow Numb, and with that his record collection, resulting in an album which is brimming with influences, sometimes to the detriment of his own identity.
Of course, Grandaddy’s and Bon Iver’s humble-wry Americana is prevalent, but there are also moments of bluegrass transported into a 60’s village fete: Janie I Will Only Let You Down, the poppiest on the album, is part Kinks, part The Bluebells with flowers in their hair infusing a simple nursery rhyme melody.
There are moments of complication that detract from his obvious song writing talent. How I lost My Somerset Accent is riddled with conflicting layers of pedal steel, xylophones and strings as though it can’t decide whether to be twee, epic, or laid back.
This aside Slow Numb has heartfelt melancholia coursing throughout. Ex Lovers is an oozingly gentle string and piano ballad, and It’s Hard to Find A Good Woman’s Hand to Hold is a tremolo fuelled stagger through a bar room after midnight.
Stidson’s welcome foray into recording acknowledges the contemporary with opener, Living Hell; a bellow powered and enthusiastic take on James Blake’s maudlin balladeering, which juxtaposes Slow Numb’s casual duskiness.
Critically, Slow Numb is an album which needs to be thinned out if Stidson wants to take Twin Falls to a stage where his romanticism is truly acclaimed, but it is nonetheless an impressive debut which signals a great songwriter in the making, so long as he finds his own niche.
by David Newbury