The color blue has always been potent. As the color of the ocean, of the sky, or of expanses of ice, its visual impact is undeniable. Why not try to connect that power with your songs? Blue has a strong musical association, from ‘the blues’ all the way to Troye Sivan’s pop record, Blue Neighborhoods. Though no one would describe it as an original observation, it’s still a classic move, and for a good reason.
When Christian Parry titled his self-recorded album Blue, he was tapping into this tradition, specifically evoking the ‘cold’ aspect of the color. Funny enough, I could say the same about this choice as I can say about the album— Parry is in well-tread territory, maybe excessively so, but ultimately the result is inoffensive and well-executed enough. If you like Iron & Wine, early Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes or any of the rootsy indie acts of the past 15 years, Blue will be a very comfortable experience for you.
It’s no surprise that Blue is a bedroom record, a one-man show all the way through the mastering stage. Parry has many of the hallmarks of a home studio musician, and he wears them well: Direct vocals, light guitar strums and a guest saxophonist, Chris Boulton. Though he splits his time between Grimsby and Kingston in Ontario, Parry has no doubt honed his craft at many coffeehouse gigs, and that skill carries into the performances on Blue.
The record starts with “Lemaire, Channel 1” the first of three songs referring to the titular Antarctic strait. As the sound of rain fades behind an insistent bass note and clean guitar part, Parry poses as his own choir, layering multiple vocal tracks and spreading them across the stereo field. This immediacy and simplicity made this opener one of my favorites on Blue. Towards the end, a vocal cadenza and the reintroduction of the rain put a fine point on Parry’s musical talents along with his sense for atmosphere.
“Colours of Life,” the second track, closely follows the same formula, save for the wah effect on the rhythm guitar. Though some may enjoy it, I found the sound took me out of the experience. After more than five minutes, Parry seemed as though he didn’t have a strong way to keep up the song’s energy, which may have influenced that particular sonic choice. Oh well. It was also somewhere in “Colours of Life” when I realized there had been no drums for the first ten minutes of the record. This is actually true of most of Blue, which contributes to its stark vibe.
Honestly, I found the interludes— four songs shorter than two minutes— to contain some of the more interesting aspects of the record. Each of them seem to contain more unique elements than some of the full-length tracks, like samples and new instrumentation (or, in the case of “Lemaire, Channel 2,” no non-vocal instrumentation at all).
Fortunately, “May Be Light” incorporates both samples and a new sound, starting off with an old recording of a horror-radio narrator that leads into electric piano. The wah effect on the guitar returns here, though it sits better with me as a background for the keyboard part.
By the time I had listened to “Lemaire, Channel 3,” which ends in a ‘hidden track’ after yet more rain sounds, I was struck with the sense that Parry could use some company in his recording sessions. Though I admire the singular vision that Blue emerged from, I think Parry had a tendency to let some ideas repeat for too long, while keeping some of the most striking moments brief. I’m sure it’s captivating when he’s live in those cozy cafes, but I’d love three-minute recorded versions of some of the five-minute songs.
If you really like the ambience, you’ll enjoy Blue all the way through, though listeners seeking tight pop jams might lean on the fast-forward button. Either way, Parry has a keen sense of melody and mood, and brings enough strong moments to make Blue worthy of your time.
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