Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: Andy Palmer - Hazard of the Die

It’s always interesting to chart the path of an artist, to see where they came from. In the case of up and coming alt folk rock artist, Andy Palmer, that story is that much more true.

Palmer seems to have always been a wandering soul, searching for peace and contentment in the highways and the byways. A shy individual by nature, Palmer took to writing songs in his early twenties as a way to express himself, admittedly writing tracks that “were introverted and filled with angst.” His searching brought him to a spiritual retreat in Maine where he lived for six months in near solitude, meditating for up to four hours a day in search of an inner peace.
 “I believed I had become too attached to myself and to the physical things around me. So I challenged myself to live without a strong sense of identity or creature comforts.” Among those creature comforts was listening to music; however, he supplemented listening to music with playing his own as he sought out his own voice.

After that intense journey, Palmer took on an even bigger challenge as he pursued the path of law and eventually served as a public defender in New York City. The gritty and harsh realities he faced there color in the lines of the eight tracks that compose Hazard of the Die.
In addition to his experiences, perhaps the most interesting element of Palmer is his voice, which he uses to full extent here. A gravelly and worn hybrid reminiscent of artists like Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and Leonard Cohen, Palmer uses his voice as an instrument, his vocal intonations simply giving more pop and power to his eclectically dark compositions.

“The Monk” opens things up, an autobiographical tale of the artist passing a Franciscan monk walking twice while on a road trip and ebbs and flows into existential thoughts, buoyed ahead by a mid-tempo mélange of guitar, percussion and strings before opening up into the spoken word poetry of “Heart of Colfax,” which finds the artist really working his voice powerfully as he tells of an urban dark side.
Smooth blues notes accentuate “Broke Down in Bellevue,” Palmer using some of his instrumental fills to almost push the listener to a point of discomfort that works wonderfully well with the slightly haunting lyric. Those blues vibes continue with the more upbeat and rocky “Good Son” while “Moreya” is a more subdued affair that subtly builds and is easily one of the more accessible tracks found here.

That accessibility doesn’t last long, however, as Palmer delivers “Muy Algo Muy Mal”, translated, “There is something very wrong.” This is an area where Palmer’s vocals grate as oppose to intrigue and the repetition within the chorus of the Spanish title are jarringly frustrating. Thankfully, “The Defendant” and its dark tale of injustice, fueled with moody tones does a lot to right those wrongs. Birthed out of an experience Palmer had in court as a public defender, it’s one of the album’s standouts, complete with its wailing harmonica before the funkified flavors of “Fancy That” step in to close things out.
Palmer’s an artist that won’t garner Top 40 airplay anytime soon but that shouldn’t deter him in the least. A lyricist who writes openly and honestly and delivers those words couched in colorful and creative blankets of sound, all hinged upon his unique vocals, Palmer has plenty of promise. Fans of Waits and Cave should find plenty to enjoy here as will those willing to expose their ears to something new and out of the proverbial box.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the honest, thoughtful review, Andrew. Best of luck out there absorbing and enjoying all the music the world has to offer.