Monday, October 26, 2009

Album Review: Soulsavers - Broken

Mark Lanegan has become the king of collaborators. This is his 2nd collaboration with electronica duo the Soulsavers (and their 3rd album). Their last was surprisingly successful, so this was a tough act to follow.

The album kicks off with a beautiful piano-led piece, The Seventh Proof, before crashing into the most uptempo track, Death Bells. This is a kind of standard-issue Lanegan rocker, searing along nicely with Lanegan singing like his life depended on it. Following this is the real meat of the album.

Unbalanced Pieces is a slow-burning, loping track which bops along nicely in the manner of Paper Money from their previous album but then kicks into a great melodic chorus, driven by female backing vocals. Following this is the desolate You'll Miss Me When I Burn, a cover of a Palace Brothers song. Lanegan delivers the performance of his life delivering lines like "when you have noone, noone can hurt you" over a sad piano backing.

Some Misunderstanding follows, a Guy Clark cover with again a wonderful vocal from Mark Lanegan. He sounds bruised and beaten, yet the overall effect is life-affirming and uplifting.

The next 4 songs are also Lanegan-sung and all the better for it. Each one of them would be a standout on a different album, and each one is heavy with emotive power. Shadows Fall, for example is a soaring string-led song with exquisite backing vocals which takes a sharp left towards the end of the track into another fantastic melody. The melodies on this album are in general stronger than those on their previous album, It's Not How Far You Fall, It's The Way You Land.

The album then introduces a female singer called Red Ghost, who covers Lanegan's own Praying Ground. She does this one and 2 other tracks reasonably well, though her tracks are not as strong as Lanegan's.

Also, there are a host of collaborators on other tracks (Gibby Haynes, Mike Patton, Richard Hawley and Jason Pierce) yet all of them suffer in comparison with Lanegan's dominant voice, rendering them barely audible.

Nevertheless, this album is in my book a strong contender for album of 2009. I'm lucky enough to have a ticket to see them support Depeche Mode in December.