Album Review: 100 Acres of Sycamore by Fionn Regan
Fairly Good, Based on 8 Critics
The Guardian - 80 Based on rating 4/5
Just 18 months after The Shadow of an Empire, his rollicking adventure in electric folk-pop, Irish singer-songwriter Fionn Regan has shifted shape again. To some extent, 100 Acres of Sycamore takes him back to the acoustic territory of his 2006 debut, The End of History, but the landscape here is much richer, Regan's guitar a moonlit stream weaving through a forest of glimmering piano and velvety strings. It's not just the music that reflects the natural world: Regan plucks elegant lyrical metaphors from it, marvelling in Bedroom of Stars at how "your head fell on my shoulder like a willow", assuring his beloved that "you are the Lake District", visualising equine dreams in The Horses Are Asleep as a prelude to celebrating the free-spirit joys of alfresco sex.
If you want something done well, do it yourself. So said Fionn Regan before recording his last album, after what should have been his second album got locked away in a vault by his unsatisfied record label, never to be seen again. It turned out to be a liberating experience, as he got to write the record he set out to make: a natural progression from the quaint acoustic sounds of his debut, The Shadow Of An Empire was more upbeat, more up-tempo, and an all-round rockier affair than his hushed, acoustic-based debut.
Perhaps burned by the "Dylan goes electric" response to his plugged-in sophomore outing, The Shadow of an Empire, Irish troubadour Fionn Regan reverts back to the wistful acoustic folk sound that earned him a Mercury Music Prize nomination for his 2007 debut, The End of History. Written during a stay at Pushing Daisies actress Anna Friel's holiday home on the Spanish island of Majorca, 100 Acres of Sycamore reflects its highly relaxed conception, as Regan's hushed tones, which sometimes barely amount to a whisper, glide over 12 tracks delicately filled with warm acoustics, lilting piano chords, and for the first time in his career, layers of strings, whether it's the gently plucked pizzicatos of the brooding title track, the luscious orchestral arrangements on the gently shuffling "The Horses Are Asleep," or the haunting violins of the gorgeous Jeff Buckley-esque closing number, "Golden Light. " The sun-kissed surroundings also appear to have influenced Regan's state of mind, as other than the suitably titled melancholy of "Vodka Sorrow" and the heartbreaking tale of loneliness "Dogwood Blossom," the downbeat nature of its predecessor has been replaced by a more introspective and optimistic lyrical stance, as evident on the whimsical "Sow Mare Bitch Vixen," the heartfelt "For a Nightingale" ("I love you and I always will"), and the reflective echo-laden "Woodberry Cemetery.
Irish singer songwriter Fionn Regan uses images from nature, dreams, and legends to weave his mythic tales of youthful consciousness in an endearing manner. He’s charming without being cloying. He’s a Celtic Josh Ritter, whose literate and melodic tunes intimately suggest what’s going on in his head as he creatively fantasizes about the world in which we live.
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New Musical Express (NME) - 50 Based on rating 2.5/5
You know those people who moon out of train windows, in love with their own picturesque melancholy? [a]Fionn Regan[/a]’s third album is like that. And yes, we’ve all done it, and a pretty track or two of heartstrung acoustic wallowing does no harm, but a whole album of lines like “[i]In the taxi you poured out your heart/And your head fell on my shoulder like a willow[/i]” and self-regarding rueful run-ins with the opposite sex can start to feel seriously unhealthy. Even something that could be quite an interesting, raw little tale of infidelity, [b]‘Sow, Mare, Bitch, Vixen’[/b], is thrown off-kilter by inappropriate sugary strings, and elsewhere there’s even – spit – xylophone.
Fionn Regan‘s 2006 debut, The End of History, netted the Irish artist acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic with nominations for both the Mercury and the Shortlist prizes. For his sophomore follow-up, The Shadow of an Empire, Regan shifted from a folksy singer-songwriter style to a more uptempo electric guitar sound. The transition away from the acoustic plucking incited many a comparison to Dylan’s electric shift by fans and critics, albeit in a less divisive fashion, and felt like a deliberate tribute to the legend’s history-making moment.
A satisfying third set from the Irish singer which leaves a warm feeling in the soul. Mike Diver 2011 You could be forgiven for missing Fionn Regan’s third long-player in the release schedules. Unlike his previous set, 2010’s The Shadow of an Empire, this arrives with relatively little fanfare, a result of the Bray-born singer’s retreat from the mainstream five years on from his Mercury-nominated debut, The End of History.