Roland Albertson occupies a particularly crowded bit of beach musically. When you put the words singer and songwriter together, there’s generally little room left for a parasol. Mind you the South African born songsmith has some form when it comes to beaches as he wryly claims a surfing degree alongside the one in IT Commerce he collected from UCT, Cape Town. Now resident in London, Albertson has imported some of that sun and sand with him and it gets into his strings, giving his self-penned songs a largely sunny, optimistic aspect. His debut six-track EP or mini-album is suitably titled Legends Of The Sun and it’s well worth 25 minutes of your time.
Starting out in London along a familiar path as a solo acoustic act, playing open mic nights, local restaurants, and pubs, Albertson honed his performing skills until he was ready to put a band together to begin the process of differentiating his music from the plethora of solo males. His songs are conventionally structured and melodically immediate. There’s variety and subtlety in the arrangements, which keeps things fresh, and no one overriding style. There is also an integral African heartbeat in much of Albertson’s material when it doesn’t stray too close to Americana. Vocally there’s a hint of soul to balance the smooth tones although in its falsetto moments Albertson’s delivery can be a bit too close to Coldplay’s Chris Martin. Another inevitable comparison might be with Jack Johnson.
Legends Of The Sun opens with filigree picked guitar riff that gets straight into your psyche. “White Wednesday” seems to be a fairly simple plea to save the planet with a burst of tribal drums and background vocal chanting to aid the ethnic drive of the piece. “Picking Up The Pieces” suffers from a familiarity crisis as it is simply too alike to Coldplay, vocally and instrumentally. The signature moments mask what is actually quite a strong relationships song and it’s one that might have benefited from an altogether different style of arrangement. Having said that there are, of course, worse acts to ape.
“No Place Like Home” gets a much more individual treatment with interweaved guitars and crisp percussion to the fore. The ocean rolls in as the singer goes on to contemplate the loneliness and stress of the city compared to the shimmering bright, perfect memory of a distant home, “Yeah there’s no place like home/Where it’s sunny and it’s warm/But now you’ve got be strong”. Albertson’s vocal is conversational and touching with a touch of vulnerability that echoes the song’s core dilemma.
Probably the most obviously commercial song in the collection is “Hold My Hand” with its sing along melody lines, breezily laid-back accompaniment and sweet vocal. Easily a summer hit record if radio stations were to pick it up. Unfortunately the formulaic “Find Your Own” which follows it doesn’t quite hit the spot, which is not to belie the quality of musicianship or the vocal, but more to do with a lack of focus to it all. Redemption comes with the final song, “Broken” where Roland Albertson pitches into classic singer-songwriter territory and delivers epic resonance, sincerity and intimacy. There’s a beautifully short bottleneck guitar solo towards the end of the song which has heartache written all over it. This is a break-up song of the highest order and one that leaves you with great hopes for Roland Albertson.