If you’ve been following us at any point over the last year, you’ll know our feelings about Talos, aka Cork’s Eoin French. Wild Alee may sound like the long-lost cousin of Chemical Ali, but it in fact refers to the side of a ship sheltered from the wind. In essence, that shelter is what French’s music provides in a world of hurried cacophony.
Talos is a balm. And if nautical references were the jumping point for his album title, then he certainly takes us on a voyage across seas of varying temperament while never losing his nerve. What he keeps, however, is a tremendous sense of oceanic beauty with alt-folk hymns (more on that later) that touch the soul while painting his canvas every beautiful shade of blue he can muster.
For those unfamiliar with French’s work, openers Odyssey and Runaway communicate it perfectly – they build on light instrumentation, navigating an emotional sea as he submerges himself in that aching vocal.
Ah, that vocal. That’s one of the things that stops French becoming yet another factory-line troubadour, rolled with velvet texture and never rising enough to alarm. It’s not a new approach, but it’s delivered with such conviction and sincerity that the heart behind it matters more than the execution.
And while we’re disappointed at the omission of his masterpiece Reborn, we’re rewarded with a jaw-dropping crown jewel in Piece[s]. We weren’t kidding when we alluded to hymns earlier, as this one is a celestial moment of cloistered confession, banking on delicate piano as it raises a chorister’s yearn all the way to the sky. It’s echoed again on the layered 209, again taking French’s most powerful asset – his voice – and utilising it with utter flair.
There is, as always, a danger of fatigue but French seems almost impossible to dislike. Even his woe gets a new shade on Endgame (“seal me now in catacombs”); in a way you almost don’t want to cut off his Dear Jane letter before it’s over, for fear of ruining the moment. It’ll be interesting what he has to communicate beyond this record – there are the strains of a more pop direction on Tethered Bones – but it’s certainly his emotional intelligence that excites us more than anything. If he keeps this up, he’ll be sailing away into a glorious sunset with a whole fleet of admirers behind him.