Call for Book Reviewers and Bloggers

Music
cover art

Alexi Murdoch

Time Without Consequence

(Zero Summer; US: 6 Jun 2006; UK: Available as import)

The New Classic Folk

It’s fun to root for the underdog. No one could have ever predicted that a slow-burning jazz-pop album with a sultry chanteuse could sell over eight million copies domestically, much less sweep the Grammys with an Album of the Year win to top it off, but Norah Jones did just that. Some little romantic comedy about the upcoming marriage of a young Greek woman didn’t seem like box-office blockbuster material, but when My Big Fat Greek Wedding ran off with over a quarter billion dollars domestically and an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, the skeptics were silenced.


Enter Alexi Murdoch.


Here is a man who is not a particularly talented guitarist. He finds simple melodies and stays with them, sometimes grooving them out to the six-minute mark. His voice is more speak-singing than real singing, as if he knows his pipes aren’t all that strong. To top it off, he’s not that great of a lyricist, never really giving into cliché but never crafting perfect off-the-cuff one-liners either. He’s a melancholy folk-pop crooner, and that’s all. Yet there’s something—that indistinguishable something—that makes him stand out, that makes his songs resonate, and enables his album to hypnotize you with its warm, lush, and moving ballads.


His full-length, the self-released Time Without Consequence, has been a long-time gestating in its own right. In 2002, the London-born balladeer was approached by KCRW’s influential DJ Nic Harcourt, asking for a few songs to play on the nationally syndicated Morning Becomes Eclectic. The response was immediate: a four-song EP (creatively titled Four Songs) was born, and it became available online at CDBaby. Before long, the EP became the single all-time best-selling album on the indie retailer’s website. Then Zach Braff wanted to use the song “Orange Sky” for a little movie called Garden State. Alexi let it be used in the film but not on the soundtrack. Then The O.C. wanted to use the same song, and he let them put it on their soundtrack. Soon it got licensed to car ads, and it gradually became ubiquitous, but it got no radio play and therefore was not overkilled. Finally, after years of ups and downs with labels (Time Without Consequences was initially going to come out on Razor & Tie), he put the album out himself.  Given all the drama he experienced in just a few years time, Alexi sounds remarkably calm.


The wonderful thing about Time Without Consequence is the same attribute that made the similarly veined Damien Rice album O such a folk-pop treat: the truly timeless and accessible nature of the songs. Your father could find the opener “All My Days” just as charming as when Nilsson was breathing life into the acoustic guitar again, and your little sister will recognize him as The O.C. guy, automatically vindicating him as cool and relevant.


I have been searching all of my days, /
Many a-road you know I’ve been walking on all of my days, /
And I’ve been trying to find what’s been on my mind, /
As the days keep turning into night.”


 
These opening lyrics no doubt ring of cliché, but he delivers them with such sincerity that it doesn’t seem to matter. “Breathe” is instantly-digestible folk-pop, “Love You More” is one of those mournful love songs that chirps with optimism no matter how hard it’s raining outside, and “Blue Mind”—one of three carryovers from Four Songs—is the best feel-good song about doing nothing put out this year.


Yet the real disappointment with Murdoch’s otherwise-excellent full-length is, surprisingly enough, his rerecording of “Orange Sky”. Dropping the earthy atmospherics of the original, he adds drums, ups the tempo, and ultimately loses the emotion. Fortunately, the rest of the album more than makes up for one small interpretive mishap. This may not be the most defining folk album of the new millennium, but Alexi Murdoch’s career is off to one hell of a start.

Rating:

Evan Sawdey started contributing to PopMatters in late 2005, and has also had his work featured in publications such as SLUG Magazine, The Metro (U.K.), Soundvenue Magazine (Denmark), the Daily Dot, and multiple national newspapers. Evan has been a guest on RevotTV's "Revolt Live!" as well as WNYC's Soundcheck (an NPR affiliate), was the Executive Producer for the Good With Words: A Tribute to Benjamin Durdle album (available for free at GoodWithWordsAlbum.com), and wrote the liner notes for the 2011 re-release of Andre Cymone's hit 1985 album A.C. (Big Break Records), the 2012 re-release of 'Til Tuesday's 1985 debut Voices Carry (Hot Shot Records), and many others. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. You can follow him @SawdEye should you be so inclined.


Related Articles
17 Apr 2011
After turning down major labels, soundtracking acclaimed indie-films, and letting his new album simply sit around for a few months, Alexi Murdoch finally comes around to an important revelation: that he's never been more at ease with himself than he is right now.
6 Mar 2011
Compared to Murdoch, Sufjan Stevens is a shouter and Arvo Part’s Estonian snowscapes resemble Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” -- and Murdoch’s music recalls both Stevens and Part in its self-conscious spirituality.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements
Win a 15-CD Pack of Brazilian Music CDs from Six Degrees Records! in PopMatters Contests on LockerDome

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.