Album Reviews, Artists, Features, Music ó By Jennifer Barry on July 28, 2011 8:49 am
Never has an entire album or EP made it into my regular playlist rotation, but Lee MacDougall broke that record with If Walls Could Talk. Not only did I gleefully add every song to every playlist, I turned up the volume every time one of the songs queued up. This is an extended EP with ten tracks, encompassing several different styles with ease. Itís easy to see some of his greatest influences in each tune, but no one could ever say heís a parrot. Lee MacDougall has a firm grasp on his own musical ideas and lyrics, and he deftly presents them here.
I canít help but compare his voice to a frosty glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. While there is a sharpnessĖa tang, there is also a smooth sweetness even through the grittiest vocals. Itís a shock to the system when you first taste it, but refreshing nonetheless. The focus and direction are incomparable, utterly unmatched by anyone else Iíve heard. If pressed, Iíd say heís similar to Peter Noone of Hermanís Hermits fame, but there is a new control and range. Also impressive are the backing vocals, which must have been contributed by Lee himself or a sibling. The harmony is full and resonant, with a specific match that doesnít occur just anywhere.
Itís hard to choose a standout track because I just enjoy them all so much. The Star Hotel is performed with a loosely controlled raucous flavor that brings Oasis back to mind, but donít expect to hear Liam and Noel when you listen. We can just thank them profusely for inspiring such a fun and enjoyable tune. Lee really lets loose with the vocals, and when accompanied by the organ, he really captures some of the old British Invasion feelĖspecifically the joyous abandon we first heard with The Animals.
Just because he can let loose and power through the rock tunes doesnít mean he canít handle the tenderness required for ballads. He deftly softens the tone for Stay and This Is My Story, giving us a sweet sound that still isnít too careful. Itís particularly fun to catch some of the witty lines in otherwise serious lyrics, too. These elevate the songs just a step above the rest, bringing a smile for just a moment when you feel you should be contemplative.
What probably cemented the EP in my summer playlist are the two tracks that give a glimpse into London with love. While he doesnít necessarily glamorize the city in any way, itís easy to see his regard for home. Again, his voice tells the story just as well as the words do, showing us life throughout the city with London in the Summer and Sunset by the Thames. You wonít be able to resist grabbing your passport and planning a trip to see his vision of the city.
And though I claim not to have a favorite, the truth is that two of the songs probably get twice the play as the rest of them. She is a heartbreaking tune that features the piano as the driving percussion instrument. While it has a quick tempo and just a hint of the old doowop feel in places, the absence of any drums still keeps the slightly subdued feel the lyrics demand. Itís an amazing balance between the rock star inside of Lee and the words he put to the page, and as far as Iím concerned, he mastered it.
Finally, there is the fun and quirky How to Be, which is stripped down to just voice and guitar. This is the perfect presentation for such clever and inspired lyrics. There is no way anyone could listen to this song and not relate in some way. Who hasnít experienced that awkward, uncomfortable-in-my-own-skin feeling at some point in life? And still, with that dry wit that youíll find throughout the EP, Lee manages to make you feel okay about being just a bit weird. ReallyÖeverybody does.
Lee MacDougall will start his North American tour on August 3 in New York City at The Bitter End. Over the course of two months, heíll appear in several major cities, including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Nashville. You can check his schedule on his Facebook page or his website to see when heíll be performing near you. If Walls Could Talk is also available for sale on his website, so drop by to get your copy.