Foy Vance: The Wild Swan

Foy Vance is one of those singer-songwriter types who has never received the recognition he deserves. Coming in around the time that most people had had a bit of a gutful of moody white blokes strumming guitars, the native Northern Irelander has thus far only secured a very select but devoted following who dig his sincere folkster vibe – a vibe which recalls some of Damien Rice’s lighter moments or even a young Van Morrison.
All that could be about to change though, with the release of his third LP The Wild Swan on Ed Sheeran’s new Gingerbread Man record label. Unless you’ve been on Mars for the last few years you’ll know Sheeran is supreme crossover pop royalty, so with that kind of exposure (not to mention an on-point marketing team now at his disposal) there’s every chance that this will be the breakthrough hit he’s been waiting for. As if that weren’t enough, Vance has also managed to get Elton John, yes THE Sir Elton, twiddling the knobs (easy now) from the producer’s chair. The result is an album that feels far more accomplished than previous efforts, playing to Vance’s strengths of rootsy blue-eyed soul a la The Commitments & Dr. John – an artist name checked in foot stomping opener “Noam Chomsky is a Soft Revolution”. The knockabout fun of follow up “Upbeat Feelgood” and “Casanova” both reinforce the cheery direction of The Wild Swan.
That’s not to say it’s wall-to-wall sunbeams and rainbows – lead single “She Burns” is the pick of a couple of darker numbers on the track listing, giving the album a dose of extra emotional gravitas. Slow plucked guitars, curiously reminiscent of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”, lead us into a beautiful string-drenched ballad that’s driven by an 80s synth bassline that really shouldn’t work but somehow just… does. “Bangor Town”, “Burden” and “Unlike Any Other” are also gorgeous slow-burners that mark the emotional centrepiece of The Wild Swan. The final act of the album finds toes tapping joyfully once again, with the Bowie homage “Ziggy Looked Me in the Eye” and rousing “Fire it Up (The Silver Spear)” – both ensuring that this is not one of those albums that sorta tails off towards the end. It’s a solid offering, and one that should ensure Foy Vance becomes a household name.
<em>Dan Ashcroft.</em>

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