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Album Review

English singer/songwriter Stephen Fretwell declares his lonely and amorous intentions during the first few seconds of his Fiction/Interscope debut with a solitary piano note surrounded by the distant screeching of seagulls. Listeners turned off by the image may as well give up right there, as the remaining tracks on Magpie expound on the mellow ache of heartbreak and self-doubt with nary a crack in the sun to be had. Fretwell's soft and breathy delivery is reminiscent of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy or a less brooding Leonard Cohen, and his soft, sparse arrangements help set the mood for the kind of melancholy that feels good. Even the more fleshed-out tracks like "Run" and "Lines" sound as if they were made by the artist alone in an abandoned barn by the seaside, and it's a testament to his misery that they when the chords shift into major the songs lose nothing of their self-imposed isolation. Fans of dreamy adult contemporary Brit-pop who have always wondered what Coldplay, Travis, or Elbow would sound like without all of the bells and whistles will find an answer within the forever-moribund world of Stephen Fretwell's Magpie. [The U.K. version of Magpie includes bonus tracks.]


Born: 1981 in Scunthorpe, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Born in the town of Scunthorpe in 1981, English singer/songwriter Stephen Fretwell was introduced to the music of Bob Dylan at a young age. Using a borrowed guitar from his grandparents, the young artist began writing his own songs and made tapes for his family and friends. After an aborted attempt at university life -- he lasted two days -- Fretwell relocated to Manchester, where his clear northern voice, poetic lyrics, and melodic guitar work soon won him an audience. After landing a much sought-after...
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Magpie, Stephen Fretwell
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