The Middle East‘s break-up in turn broke the hearts of loyal listeners a little over two years ago now. Fast-forward to 2013 and co-frontman Jordan Ireland has immersed himself in his new solo project Stolen Violin. Old fans have undoubtedly plugged in their headphones and given his debut LP Temperate Touch, Tropical Tears a frantic listen. If they were expecting a replica Middle East album, then they’ll be confused. This one needs to be listened to with an open mind, from start to finish and perhaps more than once to truly appreciate what Ireland is offering.
Temperate Touch, Tropical Tears was recorded in a shed on a vintage 8-track machine somewhere in the suburbs of Melbourne. Coupled with an honest intimacy in Ireland’s incredible voice is the slightly chaotic ensemble of dark guitar work alongside calming piano and violin sounds. The result is a unique and undeniably raw record, in which Ireland unapologetically mumbles through a variety of lo-fi folk melodies to varying degrees of success.
If you’re searching for the catchy, pop-folk vibes of the The Middle East in this Stolen Violin record, you need to look elsewhere. You will rarely, if ever, feel the urge to sing along to any of the tracks. It is as if Ireland has looked at a piece of paper that tells you how to write a conventional song and has ripped it into little pieces. The concepts of choruses, dynamic change, drums and bass lines are either thrown away or used scarcely throughout the album. Despite this, there is a beautiful, sombre and truthful magic present in all of the tracks.
Short Cuts to True Love and Romance at the Petrol Station are two stand out melodic tracks in which Ireland nods his hat to the old The Middle East sound. 38 Degrees Blue is my personal favourite, as we hear a slightly grungy and rough sound against strong and repetitive guitar riffs. Took Starlight Seven Years has a fragile vibe and features Ireland repeating “shoulderblade” until it begins to sound like the most beautiful word in the English language. There are a few delicate instrumental pieces that are swift, melodic and strategically placed to help the gentle progression of the album. The individual tracks all have their own flair, but it is the combination of them together that makes this a distinctive record. Stolen Violin appears to be much less about what listeners want from Ireland and more about what he wants to give to them. There really is nothing on this album that sounds disingenuous.
Stolen Violin is a great showcase of a compelling folk singer-songwriter and this debut LP says a lot about what we can expect from Ireland on his own. I could listen to his muddled lyrics against an array of acoustic sounds all day, but this vibe certainly isn’t for everyone. It is sad, riddled with romanticism and begs you to listen to it on repeat so you can pick up on the little intricacies you missed the first time. Ireland has managed to separate himself from the huge shadow of The Middle East and has start to cast his own with this simple yet captivating folk record.
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