Album Review: Ardentjohn – On the Wire

By on Thursday, 28th January 2010 at 4:00 pm

Edinburgh-based band Ardentjohn, described on their myspace page as folk rock/ambient/pop, are often compared to Mumford and Sons. While their debut album, ‘On the Wire,’ certainly shares the same genre, it is neither as energetic and raw as Mumford, nor as ethereal and haunting as fellow folksters Fleet Foxes. They are certainly talented, so I would love to be able to say that they’ve carved out a niche that’s all their own between the two, but in reality the album is a bit underwhelming.

This isn’t to say that the album isn’t good. At it’s best, it evokes the feeling of laying in the tall grass “all afternoon, with warm sun on my back.” It has a lush, laid back sound and earnest vocals backed by solid instrumentation. The first track, ‘All That We Need’ is one of the best on the album, starting out with gorgeous a Capella harmonies and building up the backing instruments slowly throughout the first verse. Second track ‘Open Road’ is another high point. It has more energy behind it than most of the other tracks, and there is a great bit at the end of the song where it fades completely out before coming back in with harmonized “ahh-ahh-ahhs” over an intricate combination of drums and acoustic and electric guitars. A hidden gem later in the album is ‘One Step Behind,’ a song that strays more towards the traditional pop/rock genre than folk, and makes great use of the electric guitar.

Beyond these, there is nothing much in the other tracks to distinguish them from one another. They’re a bit too ambient to really grab a hold of the listener. Musically, it is competent yet nondescript. There is not enough energy and passion behind the vocals to lift many of the songs above relaxing background music, and lyrics like “I need you, I want you, can’t you see?” don’t add much interest either.

The two original members of Ardentjohn come from the Scottish Isle of Bute, and have since collected members from Crieff, as well as such distant places as New York and Alberta. I can’t help but feel that the six of them haven’t quite figured out the sound that best suits them. It’s a solid effort for a debut album, but I’d really like to see them grow into their talents. As their best songs are the ones with the most energy, they’d do well do play up their rockier side. Have a listen to the tracks on their myspace page and look out for great things from them in the future. They will be playing the following UK dates over the next month:

Friday 29th January 2010 – Manchester, Dry Bar
Saturday 30th January 2010 – London, Bull and Gate (Album Launch Party)
Tuesday 16th February 2010 – Edinburgh, Bongo Club
Thursday 18th February 2010 – London, The Lexington

Ardentjohn’s debut album ‘On The Wire’ was released on 25th January 2010. The first single from this album, ‘Home/Where All Paths Lead’, will be released on Label Fandango on 15th February 2010.

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