Aidan Smith's Early as the Trees mini-album announced him as a quirky, idiosyncratic talent whose gift for odd lyrical angles was matched, weirdness for weirdness, by a sonic palette that incorporated typewriter and dentist's drill alongside the more usual keyboards and guitars. Sadly, this full-length debut doesn't have quite the same outlandish charm. Smith's instrumental indulgences are largely limited here to woodwind, brass, and what sounds like celesta, as he appears to seek acclaim as a more mainstream songwriter, in the mould of Harry Nilsson. Thankfully, he's retained his knack for arresting lines, as when regarding the prospect of an aneurysm with a jaunty insouciance, or when claiming, in "Everytime I Lean I Fall Asleep", how he'd "like to hammer nails into the Sun", which vies with the title "Words Waltz Like Flies" for the album's most arresting phrase. But without the found-sound punctuation of his earlier releases, Fancy Barrel does tend to slip into a more homogeneous sound, with not enough variety in texture or approach. As he acknowledges in "Song For Manchester", "All the best songs have already been sung/ Let's try and write another one, anyway".
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