Jack Savoretti’s last work, 2015’s Written in Scars, revealed an artist working at his full potential. An accomplishment of melodic infrastructure, Savoretti bolstered his tunes with solid grooves that never felt forced or contrived. It was one of the few efforts that year to merge a folk-pop sensibility with a few urban rhythms in ways that were seamless and fresh.
Sleep No More strips away much of the boxed-in grooves of Scars for a wider panoramic design of sound. The album seems more of an exercise in showcasing what is arguably one of Savoretti’s most distinctive features: his sweet and deadly singing pipes, which sit in his larynx like sticks of honey-coated dynamite; they seduce with low, come-hither growls and then explode without warning. Often, Savoretti’s distinctive rasp acts as a counterpoint to the lush backdrops of his folk-lined pop, providing his tunes with a little tarnish to roughen up the gleam. In the past, his vocals were at one with the music, embroidered into the production with polish and finesse. On much of Sleep No More, his voice resounds like a thundering boom of Jovian emotion, tearing strips through the soaring pop-rock arrangements.
Admittedly, the far more exploratory approach of Scars, which is what made that album so interesting, is sorely missed here. But in its place is a dramatic conviction of laid-bare emotion. And quite fittingly, Sleep No More is Savoretti’s loud and proud rock album (though with an emphasis on synths and the piano). Numbers like “Catapult” and “When We Were Lovers” expand upon the grounds that Coldplay once ruled, with the bombastic rush of heaven-bound melodies reaching its zenith – his voice trailing a short distance behind. On the more controlled ballad, “I’m Yours”, Savoretti’s vocals work a more nuanced ridge, distilling the emotion down to the circular and moody drama of a just-brewing storm.
Savoretti has always taken inspiration from folk and blues throughout his ten-year career. But his work here extends from his previous album’s preoccupation with Spaghetti-Western cinematics. The singer finds a new momentum of swing on the Ennio Morricone-inspired pop of the title track, a groove of heavy drums working a continuum with a lonely, windswept string section. The clockwork twang of guitars on “Deep Waters” is a machinery of chords operated by the gears of a horse-trot rhythm. And a romantic imagery of dusk-lit prairies is evoked on the locomotive shuffles of the sumptuous “Any Other Way”, arguably the most realized number on the album.
Lamentably, though perhaps reasonably, Savoretti’s appeal hasn’t had the wide-spanning reach in North America the way it has had in Europe (the singer is of Italian and British extraction and was reared on the music of either cultures). So not too surprisingly, his work and good name are often sifted through the great sieve of the pop music conglomerates ruling the better parts of the industry. His music, as well, may fall just a little too far on the side of troubadour for some tastes. But Savoretti’s golden throat, it must be said again, is something to behold. With a voice that explodes like galaxies and melts heartstrings, it’s undeniably his greatest draw.