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C Duncan

Health (Fatcat)

By • May 16th, 2019 • Category: Album review

2017’s album ‘The Midnight Sun’ established C Duncan as a musician whose work could comfortably stand alongside any of the dreampop greats whose music had inspired him. ‘The Other Side’ was an actual hit, a song that I heard on R6 and added to my playlist favourites without knowing anything very much about its origins or even who the artiste(s) performing it were. And while he continues to maintain a low-ish profile, quite a lot of people now know C Duncan and his songs.

He could have easily released ‘The Midnight Sun 2’ and I doubt if anyone would have so much as blinked. Lush, finely produced melodies and resonant musicality are very much liked by large numbers of listeners and in the playlist maelstroms, more songs of the timbre of ‘The Other Side’ would go down just fine. C Duncan isn’t one to remain seated on his laurels however, and ‘Health’ is a markedly different album to its predecessor.

This is apparent right from the track that begins ‘Health’, the resolutely uptempo ‘Talk Talk Talk’, a song that only needs a slap-bass in the rhythm section to turn it into a full-blown funk number. It’s poppy, boppy and several miles removed from the languid synth balladry he has become associated with. ‘Wrong Side Of The Door’ is taken at an easier pace, but listen to those choral cadences and, yep, I’m getting Steely Dan if not actually Hall And Oates. ‘Impossible’ reveals that Duncan has probably been listening to some glossy mid-80s synth pop, while keeping those by now recognisable swaying vocals in position, And ‘Holiday Home’ really does sound a bit like Hall And Oates.

80s referencing songwriting aside, the title track is probably the strongest track on the album. Duncan balances the timing of his subdued vocal against some deftly played piano in a way that I always appreciate hearing, and gives his musical depths full rein, a song that inadvertently makes one or two of the other tracks appear a bit throwaway. We needn’t expect epic soundtracking on every occasion though, and if ‘Pulses And Rain’ is designed to evolve into a dancefloor filler, the album’s closer ‘Care’ with its oddly-tuned choral melody (quite a lot of backing vocalists are involved) and its soporifically paced piano chordage doesn’t much resemble anything else on the album.

As it is, C Duncan obviously isn’t content to repeat or reconfigure his recent work so much as bring us a definedly MOR collection that’s hard to dislike. Of course a few of us would prefer that he made an album nearer in spirit to Crystal Castles or Beach House instead of to Supertramp, but that isn’t happening with ‘Health’ and his 2019 album is probably just a little too measured and musicianly for the club crowds, whatever it is that they like nowadays.

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