C Duncan

Grandstand Media, 2015

REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka


So far this year, I have come across several new artists who taken the leap from composing and performing classical music to making pop music. None, however, have yielded an album as brilliant as Architect, the debut album from Glaswegian newcomer C Duncan (a.k.a. Christopher Duncan). Having studied classical music and composition at Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Duncan’s abilities as a composer are on display here with his ability to blend multiple layers without making it sound turgid and dense. The result is dreamy and moody pop album infused with the complexity and drama of classical music. That he recorded the entire album by himself, at home, makes it even more impressive.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This album manages to blend elements of dream pop (“Silence And Air”), show tune lullaby (“I’ll Be Gone By Winter”), and lush baroque-pop (“For,” “Architect”) with finesse. There are also fascinating turns like the effervescent “He Believes In Miracles” that evoke older acts like The Association. There is such a broad range of things going on here, it really is an impossible task to try to compare this album to the work of another single artist. Duncan’s website cites influences as diverse as Fleet Foxes, Burt Bacharach, and Maurice Ravel, which do a fair job indicating the breadth of styles encompassed on this album. 

While the songs display an impressive range of styles, tempo, and textures, it is the soaring chorus of vocal harmonies that steal the show. They give the songs an ethereal and angelic quality that makes this album absolutely beautiful. Closing with “I’ll Be Gone By Winter,” which sounds like a mix of the Beatles’ “Good Night” and Roger and Hammerstein’s “Edelweiss,” the album finishes with simplicity and irresistible sweetness of a crème brûlée.   

In an effort to evaluate this critically, I really struggled to find any real weaknesses with this album. I suppose someone demanding more of a visceral punch from their music may find this somewhat cerebral and effete. Personal tastes notwithstanding, I found this album is an amazing achievement from a technical as well as an artistic standpoint, and probably the best new album I have heard all year. I am not alone in my opinion as this album has been shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. It certainly has my vote.

Rating: A

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