Kansas born and raised, Hong Kong’s folk singer songwriter Todd Warner Moore is nothing if not prolific; he has released a number of albums in just the last year alone and Starry Sounds is the latest. A lively Americana sound draws influences from gypsy music, 60’s style folk and the odd country twang and gives us an album that hangs together as a whole.
The stand out track for me is ‘Starting Again’, a song that begins as many a love song does, before revealing itself to be about the process of song writing and releasing. Todd’s gift of pensive lyricism comes to the fore:
An unexpected bolt, A song arrives In notes…But sometimes I will share my songs with people I don’t even know know know…That’s the paradox of songs, once we’ve formed them, they are gone gone gone
Todd is correct in that creativity in a public art form is always a paradox – the work is yours as creator but as soon as it’s out there, it takes on a life of it’s own and it becomes for others to claim. And so we start again on the next piece.
The title track gives the listener the flavour of the album as a whole; a collection of songs that form a cohesive piece of music, connected through a mellifluous sound, tone and imagery. Lyrics are a strong point with Todd’s music and show he has a gift for describing the every day in poetic, almost magical terms. Thematically, Starry Sounds communicates the beauty of the world around us and the brevity of life in comparison. ‘Ebb and Flow”, ‘It’s Happening Today‘ and ‘See So Clearly‘ continue this theme, while the insertion of an instrumental track, ‘Lapis Largo‘ gives us time to contemplate what we’ve heard.
Coming towards the end of the album, ‘Meet in the Middle‘ takes us into the more familiar song writing territory of love and heartbreak, albeit with Todd’s take on the lyrics:
Sometimes when they loved, it was like they were breathing together and their bodies were musical saws, calling where to be touched. They’d give and they’d give and they’d be what they wanted to be. ‘Twas these times in their love where everything came to the surface,
but it was so hard in this love of theirs to ﬁnd it back back back, back to the middle
The recurrent use of one single word, in this case, back, shines a light on a particular phrase that illuminates the song in one place and is a recurrent theme throughout the album. The listener is drawn to that part of the song like moths to a flame and anchors us in the album as a whole and is rarely found in a world where an album often appears to be a disparate collection of random songs.
‘Coffee Conversations‘ ends Starry Sounds by taking a look at the scourge of modern life, technology, specifically smart phones.
You post your pictures on the wall, you comment on the pictures posted on the wall, but you don’t talk much anymore and you don’t get past the front door…where coffee conversations couldn’t end.
One of the most talked about topics of this year is the need to temper reliance on our phones (irony alert – most of this conversation takes place online, on our phones) and if / how technology can isolate us from others. Perhaps it does, perhaps it doesn’t but either way, it’s here for good and as with anything, can be for both better and worse. This technological revolution has changed the working habits of many of us but conversely, this can lead to more isolation as we work from home alone. This is obviously a hot topic for society as a whole and one that occupies the minds of (independent at least) song writers – this is not the first song I’ve listened to this year about this very subject.
A song writer first and foremost, Todd’s advice for aspiring musicians is to: Write one song a week and you are bound to get better.
Practical and easy to at least try!
Starry Sounds was released on August 25. Get your copy here.
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