Haunting whirs move behind gentle acoustic guitar on the opener “Lazarus,” setting the tone for the record to gradually unfold. The ethereal nature of the music and wide gapping spaces lend graciously to Murphy’s beautiful vocals as he sings lines such as, “and my grandpa said don’t trust those eyes you can’t cry in, and my grandma said don’t trust a thing your grandpa says”. The structuring is simple, yet crushingly gorgeous with textures so calming it’s hard to believe in aggression. Bright vocal segments dip and fade throughout, providing variation in the sonic landscape. “In Chemicals” is just about as stripped as can be, beginning with nothing more than a faint acoustic strum and heart wrenching vocals. Murphy wails with stunning beauty as an ever growing buzz warms the mix, slowly building upon the verses into the passionate chorus. “Tracers” makes a point to highlight the acoustic string noise, compliments of the sliding from Murphy’s fingers over the frets, as the jangly chords glide up and down the guitar’s neck. The somber tone has an undeniable feeling of hopefulness and optimism. Murphy proves that pop music can be invigorating, experimental, and all the while retain an honest sense of deep emotion.
“Paranoid Clusters” begins with the evocative, “beneath the paranoid cluster of fallen stars, in the big black belly of the universe,” gliding over the finger picked acoustic melodies. Mike’s bold piano crashes add intensity to the flourishing song, climbing towards a choir of orchestrated splendor. “Eclipse” takes the record to its far most minimal, as Murphy sings, “are you in outer space? That’s what the doctor says”. The degree of personal lament and grief felt in his lyrics is so emotionally heavy it’s nearly exhausting, but as a seasoned songwriter, Murphy is wise enough to keep the songs fairly short in length, and the lyrics moderately obscure. The beauty of each track is more than enough to keep things interesting, and Murphy’s vocals are dazzling from start to finish. “Tobias Gray,” is the albums darkest offering, thanks in part to Mike’s ominous bass drone persistent throughout the track. The dry crisp tone of Paul’s voice leads over the rampant acoustic plucking into a heavenly vocal melody, leading into the lyric “at a very young age the paramedics took her away,” as the song comes to an abrupt end.
“Warning” is a gorgeous ode to the death of their grandparents, as Murphy sings, “you died without warning, that September morning, I spoke to you aloud for the last time”. The melody twinkles in a dream induced state, as Murphy’s vocals intensify without losing their soothing nature. There is very little that Paul Murphy can’t do as a songwriter, and this album and the overall emotion proves that with unashamed confidence. “Drift” is full of layered texture with acoustic guitars sharing the ambient space with simplistic banjo sounding accompaniment. Paul sings, “You’re my lover, my very best friend. I want to hold you forever, I want to hold you again,” with sincere compassion and striking tone from his voice. His vocal strength leads the album’s closer, “The Coroner,” into optimistic territory as he croons, “lie down with me, honestly I’d give my hands, my hair, my skin, the lining in my stomach” as the record fades to a close.
With a complete run time of twenty seven minutes, the record ends leaving you desiring more, and for a solo project of the utmost lo-fidelity, that’s a great accomplishment. Many of the tracks sound as though they could be the skeleton or framework of forthcoming Wintersleep songs, but their overall craft and exceptionally well thought songwriting allows them to stand firmly and triumphantly on their own. Paul Murphy has delivered a record filled with honest talent, with a pure and raw glimpse of his musical abilities and understanding. You can download both “Tobias Gray” and “In Chemicals” for free from their site www.postdatamusic.com. Wintersleep will be returning with their fourth record this spring/summer, but for now 2010 belongs to Postdata, an album that will have you returning for many repeat listens. Immediately entertaining and ultimately satisfying and enjoyable, Postdata have created a record as simple as it is memorable.