Larkhall is the solo-project of former concert-pianist and film composer Charlie Williams, the resulting album being his first under the name. From start to finish this album is densely packed with Williams’ piano, vast string arrangements and varied instrumentation. It’s piano-pop at its core but the inner-workings of each track show evidence of an artist whose career has been steeped in formal composition.
The opener here, aptly titled ‘Beginning’ is a pretty strong start. The piano-driven melody is pleasant and the beat driving it is well-purposed. The main ‘riff’ of sorts is subtle, twinkling and the vocals suit the song well for what it is. The two songs that follow were low points on this record for me. The half-sang, half-spoken vocal performance on ‘Bones’ just didn’t come across as strong to me and the vocal and instrumental melodies that carried the song did nothing to grab my attention. Lyrically, the song ‘Flood’ came across as awkward and again I found nothing to take away from the performance, with a lot of the arrangements sounding overly-cliched and tired. After a decent instrumental piece, ‘On the Importance of Spirals’ brings forth genuinely beautiful moments consistently throughout the song in ways that the two aforementioned pieces completely failed at achieving. The song swells and shines and the vocal melodies intertwine in a way I can only describe as uplifting.
The momentum is carried through on the snappy and poppy ‘Trace a Universe’, which shows a vocally-improved Williams leading the solid number through to the excellent bridge and repeated chorus that finish the song off. The song works well and keeps the album flowing but the song that follows ‘Ocean’ does little in the way of continuing that run. Not to say it is a bad piece but after the strength of the two tracks that introduced it I maybe could have done with something with a little more ‘umph’. ‘Maggie’ and ‘Greenland’ didn’t do much for me. The tones and melody found here in these two tracks just gave the album a sense of repetitiveness and again there was nothing unique about these tunes to make me want to return to them. Before the understated closer ‘Part 2’ comes ‘Newbridge’ the undisputed standout of this release. This song is simply divine and is an amalgamation of all of the strengths of this album. The song alone sums up the worthwhile parts of the LP and really stands a head above the tracks that preceded it.
In summary this album shows glimpses of real elegance and well intentioned grandiose-pop but it falters too often due to its own inconsistencies and repetitive nature. There’s more than enough good-points here however to warrant a listen. Larkhall is at times amazing to behold and with a more varied and clinical approach to uniqueness, a second offering could be an even greater joy to behold.