Paul Turner’s full-length debut, Clear Blue, which hits US shelves October 21st, is an album of startling clarity and poignancy.
The songs are simple and beautifully arranged. When least adorned they showcase Turner’s soft voice. Turner counts among his influences Nick Drake, and he does at times sound like him. On ballads like “Be Happy” and “Angels Cry”, his crisp guitar playing is complemented by Adrian Hannan’s backing violins and cello, which come up in Coldplay-esque flourishes, and the effect is unexpectedly grabbing.
A lot of the songs on Clear Blue are songs that in their opening seconds you may think you’ve already heard before. The prime example is album opener “City Lights”. On the one hand, that makes the songs fairly traditional fare; on the other, it is because they tame the ear so effortlessly that they provoke a shock of recognition-the feeling that they must have already existed somewhere in consciousness (yours, pop music’s), and that it is just coincidence and good fortune that Turner has happened to put them to paper.
It all fits in rather well with the dominant mood of Clear Blue, which is one of zen and meditation. Not slow so much as paced, I’d call Turner’s rhythms respiratory. You could lay on the floor, stare at the ceiling, listen to this album, and have a very productive time, I think. That is, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Unsurprisingly, Turner does have Buddhist leanings, which find expression most explicitly in his lyrics: “Return to center, return to observe,” he sings on “Be Happy”. I don’t know anything about Buddhism, but just the same I could get used to Clear Blue.
For those interested, Paul Turner plays Otto’s Shrunken Head (New York) on Friday, October 17th.