First Appeared in The Music Box, April 2006, Volume 13, #4
Written by John Metzger
On his first, full-length outing Magpie, Stephen Fretwell invokes the usual array of influences that currently are dominating the British music scene: the subdued, introspective warmth of Damien Rice; the sad, melodic beauty of Nick Drake; and the impassioned folk-pop of both Coldplay and Travis. The hauntingly heady swirl of Lost without You, for example, easily could be mistaken for a leftover from Coldplayís Parachutes, and Whatís that You Say Little Girl bends Travisí 20 into a scornful, Dylan-esque sneer. Yet, Fretwell does more than merely mimic what has come before him. Forsaking any semblance of heavy-handed production, he strips his favorite songs down to their barest essence and wallows in their misery. Against a backdrop of faintly strummed acoustic guitar, his weary rasp beckons in Springsteen-ian fashion on the opening Do You Want to Come With?, providing a brooding touchstone to which he returns quite often as Magpie progresses. Elsewhere, he conjures Counting Crows on the mid-tempo gallop of Brother; while Bad Bad You, Bad Bad Me is steeped in the gently mournful Elton John-isms that have become David Gray's bread and butter. The albumís intimate aura permits every crackle and pop that springs from the materialís emotional fire to resonate fully, and although, in crafting Magpie, Fretwell didnít stumble upon anything new, he still managed to deliver a promising debut that more often than not is heartbreakingly lovely. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box