It took three or four listens, but the charms of Donovan Quinn's new record grew each time. The melodies are strong in composition but doggedly low-key in delivery, hiding in rich, aching, sweater-warm arrangements. They require close listening, at least until you've got yourself familiar, but the payoff feels especially sweet in the age of music oversaturation, when dozens of songs whiz by a day, and too often the shallow pleasures of the flashiest hooks get all the attention.
For the indie-folk enthusiast, Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month serves as a fine antidote to the overpraised new Conor Oberst album: while Oberst bends over backwards to craft a mellow, post-adolescent pose for a now-huge audience he's only too aware of, Quinn delivers the roots-folk shamble and cryptic confessionals with subtlely and grace to spare. He's got the help of Papercuts' Jason Quever, whose piano and organ playing fills in all the right spaces; Quever also produced.
An all-too-obvious touchstone here is Dylan, but there's a serious Robyn Hitchcock influence as well, particularly on "Quarantine", which could almost be an outtake from I Often Dream of Trains - complete with that psych-folk-down-the-rabbit-hole vibe that's so completely transporting. Like Hitchcock, Quinn writes downbeat, introspective songs that explore sadness and confusion while steering completely clear of typical diary-entry confessionals. Elsewhere, the simple love song "Hollowed Candles" delivers a chorus so sneakily good it should make most songwriters madly jealous. On this and other tracks, the use of strings and the thick, half-sarcastic melancholy air almost achieves the magic of Big Star's 3rd/Sister Lovers.
Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month is out September 13th on Soft Abuse - don't miss this one.
MP3: Donovan Quinn - Holy Agent