Jon Byrne: Built by Angels review

Jon Byrne

Jon Byrne’s career kick-started in 2008 after he attracted the attention of The Clash’s Mick Jones and began to take to the stage. That same year, the British born singer/songwriter made his mark at Glastonbury, winning the festival’s Leftfield award for best new artist. By the time 2009 rolled around, he was ready to share his first full record with the world.

Released to critical acclaim, it allowed Byrne to play at venues and festivals throughout the UK and beyond, including a tour of the American west coast in 2012. His next album is due to hit this coming June, but before it does let’s take a look back at his poignant sophomore effort, Built by Angels.

“Lighthouse” sails off upon a buoyant acoustic riff and harmonica. The vocals are cheerful and airy while the overall atmosphere is uplifting and warm. The tone shifts somewhat for “Forever Chasing That Feeling”. A hushed but high pitched melody cuts through the senses as the instruments build to become loud and vigorous.

Solemn guitars and piano keys introduce “Suddenly I Was in Love”. Their sobering nature is further enhanced by resonating vocals. “Little Layla” grows out of this, featuring sentimental instrumentation and a gentle harmony. A wonderfully moving duet soon sets in, giving rise to a heart-warming air.

“Because Your Love Is” begins sombre before the vocals explode in the chorus and the whole thing grows to an immense climax. “The Bitch and Her Greed” shifts gears, announcing its presence by way of a jovial riff and a rather carefree sound. It’s full of revelation and realisation, made up of lyrics declaring themselves free of past burdens.

There’s something very introspective about “All in my Mind”, owed to its reflective musical elements and contemplative melody. Its ironically named successor, “Living the Dream”, selects a deceptively upbeat tune to go with its lamenting lyrics.

“The Right Side of Love” strips down for a mellow performance brought to life by the slightest hints of an acoustic riff and powerful, passionate vocals. This is followed by the very honest “Hollywood Calling”. The longing narrative plays out very much like a thoughtful soliloquy, which continues into “Loser”. Reserved and silent, the inherent monologue demonstrates a sense of fortitude and determination.

“Positively State of the Art” adopts a different approach, with a jazzy riff and funky vocals. Its simple sound and melody are absorbing. The compilation is then brought to a conclusion by title track, “Built by Angels”, which serves as a short but affective acoustic finale.

Jon Byrne infuses his material with an enormous amount of depth and meaning. His music’s earnest lyrics and easy listening nature make for an intriguing listen. Built by Angels is an album that transcends genres through its bare-bones, acoustic execution, meaning it will captivate and appeal to a vast audience.

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Graduate of NUI Maynooth's Department of English, passionate writer of fiction and creative non-fiction alike. Mad about music, movies and books. If there's anything I enjoy more than listening, watching and reading, it's writing about what I listen to, watch and read! Check me out at davecsimpson.wordpress.com, find me on Twitter @davesimpson1 or drop me a line at dave@puremzine.com