Warm, dark, exotic folk music isn’t the first thing one would expect from an enigmatic Irishman, much less one so traditionally named as Patrick O’Laoghaire, but here we are and, truly, it is fitting that such a confounding sound come from such a confounding man. Now, I use that most liberal of genre tags “folk music” not in reference to your stock acoustic stringed instrument-laden troubadour – O’Laoghaire is a fair fling from that with his project, I Have A Tribe – but in describing music with a pulse; music you can caress alongside its neck and feel its life beating beneath its skin, directly appealing to us slabs of flesh and blood, vital and kinetic as those raw and rough-hewn strums one typically equates with the term.
Word has it that O’Laoghaire carefully cultivated what has finally become his debut release over a span of several years and his primping and toil certainly show. One would be hard pressed to find as fully realized a sound for a debut as he has constructed on Yellow Raincoats. Simply judging by these song titles, one can quickly tell we’re not in for something wholly Irish and, true to the fleeting transience implied by titles such as “Monsoon” and “Biscayne”, we are treated to a palette that is at once sweeping but intimate. “Monsoon”s serpentine bassline enshrouds the listener while also portending the flickering blackness of an oncoming summer storm. The title track evolves into a swampy, humid funk not unlike recent Iron & Wine while O’Laoghaire emanates emotionally resonating ballad theatrics on the spare “Biscayne” and organ and choir-tinged closer, “Cavalry”.
Vocally, O’Laoghaire sports all sorts of imperfections – his falsetto isn’t pure, there’s a reediness that’s not completely rich and a husk that’s a few pinches shy of barrel-agedness – but it’s true and honest, confident without an ounce of pretense. He wavers in and out of the falsetto on “Monsoon”, wafting and tumbling like pre-storm winds; his near whisper seemingly seeping out around the “depression…in [his] throat” on the title track. On “Biscayne”, O’Laoghaire’s voice nakedly tangos with nary more than a single, unadorned electric guitar, itself threatening to “come asunder” as he sings here in the wake of a dissolved relationship, while scorn bubbles beneath his deep-pitched moans of “you don’t have no throne” as “Cavalry” comes to a close.
In an interesting bit of irony, Yellow Raincoats covers so much ground and depth, its appearance as a 4-track EP is both a blessing and a curse. Without it, we’d be meagerly chomping on intermittent Soundcloud track drops or, perhaps, devoid of this beautiful music completely. However, the range and proficiency O’Laoghaire exhibits here makes the EP seem merely just a sampler rather than a self-contained work its own, leaving our proverbial tongues wagging for more…here’s hoping that’s sooner rather than later.