Steve Murphy has spent a lot of time lending his vocals and recording abilities with an indie band out of London, Ontario called Westminster Park. During his time with this band, he recorded four albums. The group has a decent amount of buzz and has even had songs and albums nominated for the Polaris Prize twice. Their music can be heard on university stations across the country. Murphy is all about music inside out. He works as a musician full time alongside another full time job. He is a self-proclaimed audiophile and apparently an avid vinyl collector. Based on his new solo album Lonesome Scrapbook, I have a sense what his collection might include, but I could also imagine there being a few surprises in there as well.
Murphy's sound is grounded in all things relating to the human condition. It is very soulful and somber, but never really a downer. There's a lightness pushing the mood up from the bottom that I think I would identify as optimism. Murphy is a very expressive and talented guitarist who utilizes the instrument like a second voice, so some of these songs ended up sounding like duets to me. He's also a damn fine vocal performer and his performance style pairs very well with his top tier lyrics. I would say Murphy is definitely one of those musicians who really can go it alone with very little need for collaborators. I also got the sense that this album had been brewing for some time. The album sounded like a very well-rounded, full developed idea.
The recording process is interesting for this album as it is split in half. The first half was done by Murphy in his home using Audacity. He kept the aesthetic inviting and intimate with a very low compression method. I have to say he is quite talented with his Audacity skills, because I would not have guessed.
The second half was recorded live during a podcast and the in house engineers mixed the audio. Additional mixing and mastering was done by Murphy. You can definitely tell there is a difference in setting but I actually appreciate the change in pace and sound. Again, Murphy's ability to be his own engineer adds to the fact that he is built for solo work and is genuinely good at it.
Albums in this musical direction often suffer from a similar problem for me which is everything gets a little too monotone. While there was a little bit of that issue with this album, the recording process did help break that up quite a bit. Lonesome Scrapbook landed on a high note with me due to the quality of Murphy's musicianship and songwriting. The music has an easiness about it that would allow it to cast a very wide net in terms of listeners. I would say this album is best listened to in an intimate setting. The music was very good at quieting my mind and letting me enjoy his work. Overall I think it's well done and more than worth the investment.
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