Tom McRae

Just Like Blood

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Tom McRae's second effort, Just Like Blood, doesn't venture into territory that far removed from his self-titled debut. It's rather unfortunate, because the album gets off to an invigorating start with its first two tracks. "A Day Like Today" feels like a mix of David Byrne's world music excursions and early Peter Murphy. Amid soaring strings and what sounds like a tribal xylophone, McRae sings passionately about loving someone to death. "You Only Disappear" benefits from slick phrasing, a minimalist piano, and deep bass notes. The song feels like one of the finer moments from I Am Kloot's self-titled sophomore album. After these two songs, McRae too often gets mired in overwrought lyrics, murky ambient effects, and uninteresting melodies. Too much of the album comes off like a David Gray or Travis throwaway. While "Ghost of a Shark" recalls Ry Cooder musically, and "Overthrown" bares a sonic resemblance to Slowdive, McRae's anguished lyrics and hushed, processed vocals prove to be the album's undoing. That's not to say that there isn't an audience for anguished songs, but songs like "Karaoke Soul" and "Mermaid Blues" offer up lyrics even more embarrassing than their titles. "Mermaid Blues" perhaps best displays McRae's weakness. Without a doubt inspired by Talk Talk's minimalist albums, the song peaks too soon while McRae dabbles in flat and awkward images of "burning arrows (that) fall backwards." With perhaps just a few patches of humor or even a hint of a smile, these ten songs would be easier to stomach. That being said, fans of earnest artists like the Devlins, Travis, or Damien Rice will most likely appreciate the syrupy thickness of McRae's delivery and emotional nakedness. The nearest comparison would probably be Ed Harcourt. But where Harcourt often loses the plot in commercial-style rock bombast, McRae suffers from overblown high school quality metaphors and safe songwriting. If there were more moments like the two opening tracks, it would be easier to recommend Just Like Blood.

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