T R O U B L E
Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
Trouble can mean a few things, most of them not all that good. In its common definition trouble is synonymous with danger, foretelling events that will lead to dramatic and unkind conclusions. While the first thing that might come to mind is the more physically violent image of trouble, trouble can manifest itself in something as commonplace as a relationship with a significant other. Mark Andrew Hamilton, the songwriter and leading man behind the indie pop outfit Woodpigeon, shows himself to be no stranger to this particular manifestation on his sixth and latest album, drawing upon influences from the past few years of traveling the globe.
Here on the appropriately titled TROUBLE Hamilton explores in articulate depth the fleeting nature of relationships while taking turns to detail his own role as one half of a faulty pair. In tracks like “Picking Fights”, Hamilton reluctantly resigns himself to withering argument as he sings “You’re picking fights you won’t win/So begin.” There’s a world-weariness and maturity to lyrics such as these, lyrics focused on the hollowed out and bitter ends of soured relationships. Sung against a sparse production and with the lonely guide of acoustic guitar, Hamilton has a practiced method for dressing up these tracks and others such as “Faithful” in tear-jerking sincerity.
With “Faithful” he exposes the faults of both his former lovers and himself. “Sorry darling, sorry love/you thought me faithful but I was not”: he softly croons, baring his imperfections yet unafraid to do so. Here, some of the globetrotting influences espoused by Hamilton come into play within somewhat uneven beat of the percussion layered alongside the ghostly twang of the guitar. While ambitious, the attempt to render this structure into something quite as gripping and emotional as “Devastating” or “The Accident.” Both of these tracks are exemplary in this regard.
“Devastating” fills the spaces between Hamilton’s sorrowful vocals with the steady, dark plunk of bass guitar and far away percussion, echoing the title with unerring accuracy. “The Accident” wraps itself in a metaphor that builds and builds until breaking into the raspy rendering of the track’s alternate voice: You built a road on my back/What a pathetic friend/A concrete strap to hold me down/I’ll shake it off my hand/I know you’ll come back ‘round and we’ll go through this again.” The bridge then transitions into the intermingling of both voices as they build off of each other against the sepulchral, ambient noise in the background.
It’s hard to deny the lyrical gift Hamilton has bestowed upon TROUBLE. He proves himself more than ever to be a natural-born storyteller. Even so taking in the full length of the album can be a bit challenging, especially when some of the more cyclical tracks such as “Fence” and “Rooftops” bookend the album. What brings it back are the surprising textures of the album, which insist on more than a casual listen to uncover. Of particular note here is the hidden instrumental track included at the six minute mark of “Rooftops” giving a well-earned surprise to the fans. Though not flawless, TROUBLE ranks as Woodpigeon’s most ambitious album yet, interplaying lust and raw emotion into some of the most inspired lyricism seen so far this year.