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Fruitless Research

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Album Review

Veteran singer/songwriter and engineer T.W. Walsh has been using drum machines in his solo work since his 1999 debut How We Spend Our Days, but his songs have always maintained a sparse, rootsy feel to them. On his 2015 full-length Fruitless Research, his second recording for Graveface Records, he constructs full-bodied pop songs with atmospheric synthesizers, metronomic programmed rhythms, and bright yet understated guitars. His vocals are often coated in a layer of echo or thin distortion, and opener "Public Radio" is sung entirely through a vocoder. In some ways, his personality feels a bit more obscured than on his previous albums, but the songs themselves are a lot more focused, turning into lite new wave gems with a sleek yet ragged feel that occasionally brings to mind Joe Henry. His songs remain a bit melancholy, but there's still a hint of wryness hidden in them, as the album's title displays. A great deal of credit for the sonic construction of this album goes to longtime collaborator Yuuki Matthews, who helped Walsh out of a creative block following an extended period of fatigue and dysfunction. Matthews adds a lot of subtle production flourishes, such as some dubby echo and tricky drum manipulations, and songs like "Counting Cards" sound like a drowsy, low-key take on the retro sounds of Blood Orange, but without attempting to play by the '80s pop rulebook as much. Closing number "The Glow" has a driving synth bassline and softly howling noises that would probably sound a lot odder if they were isolated, but the way they're mixed and blended into the song, it makes sense. On Fruitless Research, Walsh doesn't break out of his comfort zone so much as he expands it, embracing technology more than ever before and crafting his most immediate, accessible material yet.

Customer Reviews

Yuuki killed it

I made this record, but wanted to thank Yuuki for helping me.

Instantly a favorite

A true work of art, replete with evocative and haunting tones and melodies, thoughtful heartfelt lyrics, and a groove and flow that rewards those who listen to the entire album, uninterrupted, from beginning to end.

Biography

Genre: Alternative

Years Active:

Drawing comparisons to Will Oldham and Songs: Ohia, both for his high Neil Young-ish singing voice and his occasionally stark narratives, T.W. Walsh tossed his hat into the swirling ring of morose, modern singer/songwriters in the late '90s. Originally the drummer for various short-lived indie rock bands in his native Massachusetts, Walsh eventually went the solo route with his own brand of introspective songwriting, though he has been known to bristle at being included with the ever-marginalizing...
Full Bio
Fruitless Research, TW Walsh
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Customer Ratings