Reviewed by Chris Familton.
SEAN MCMAHON – YOU WILL KNOW WHEN YOU’RE THERE
Blind Date Records
Melbournian Sean McMahon’s new album is a beguiling affair. It occupies a gently rolling middle ground where songs never explode into wild extremes. Instead, they nestle into a warm and gently rocking vibe. McMahon’s sound is bucolic and forlorn singer/songwriter alt-country, with a dash of countrified indie rock in the vein of Kevin Morby and Wilco.
The depth and sophistication of McMahon’s songwriting is really what comes to the fore on this record. The single ‘Outsider Blues’ is a plaintive Lennon-esque slow sway over spare drums and strings. “So if you see a ghost, getting around in my shoes, you know I’ve got ‘em bad and I just can’t seem to shake ‘em loose”. He’s certainly got a way with phrasing and a sharp enough pen to avoid any sniff of cliche in his lyrics.
‘Just To See You Again’ is a duet with acclaimed musician Freya Josephine Hollick and their contrasting voices work a treat as they conjure up a kind of happy melancholia on the track. Early single ‘Spring’ is an exquisite song built on gently undulating melodies, Matt Dixon’s beautiful pedal steel playing and a harmonica that recalls Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, while album closer ‘Show Me The Way’ has vocal melodies that will ghost your memory cells for days.
A looser, back porch vibe permeates the folky ‘Come Around Here’ and this, and indeed most of the album, has a real sense of familiarity about it. That’s down to the excellent musicianship, McMahon’s timeless sound and the relaxed and poignant feel of the whole record, from start to finish. You Will Know When You’re There deserves to be on end of year lists, it’s that good.