The winter of our folk discontent

Quiet Loner – Spectrology

The Skinny: Introspection for the winter.

The Review Proper: Songs from a musty porch in Middle America, England.

Quiet Loner, aka Matt Hill, is a very quiet musician. Haven’t met him personally, but from his music, you can guess quite a lot.

First, one is a range of lyrics that go from melancholic to downright depressed, so, it’s more on the blue side of the musical spectrum. I mean, ‘Ash ballad’, the song that seems catchier on the first spin, sounds like the story of two star crossed lovers realising what they have to do. The flames might be real or symbolical (probably the latter), but the end result is the same.

Second, he knows his Americana folk and is comfortable using it. The lyrics are like little stories, like the ones passed from father to son, from mother to daughter, little cautionary tales and rumours (blasphemous or not).

So, in a nutshell, Spectrology, well, bluntly said, is a depressing album. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it depends on your current mood. The style zig zags from the very sparse (almost hauntingly minimalistic) ‘About as precious as life gets’ to the full blown Americana servings, like ‘Lucifer’ (loving the banjo doing the rounds on several songs).

Arrangement-wise, it’s pretty simple: a finger-picked guitar, a dash of banjo from time to time and minimal drumming for that “hindsight” mood you get on the cold, last days of every year. No wonder this album was written in the winter of 2009, it does feel like an intimate affair.

But that’s on the music, on the lyrical front, there’s no meandering about the issue. The finger is pointed to a situation and addressed.

So, with that line of thinking, the tempo does veer between brisk paced numbers and the slow, introspective numbers where you can pretty much hear the brushes of the drums and the warmth of a female voice(‘Counting the days’ – very good one) and the peppier (but still introspective) numbers (like ‘Tourniquet’).

In a way, it feels that Spectrology is building towards something. Maybe it’s how the pairing of ‘There go the ghosts’ and ‘Suicide girls’ sound, a proper one-two punch, possibly as a little warning to the really downbeat ending for this album.

Name and shame, this downbeat number is ‘Love is a risk’ is a very sorrowful song, a stark reminder that the best laid plans of folk singers and men often go awry. A downbeat album (really need a happy moment after ‘Counting the days’) with a very intimate atmosphere.



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