Album Reviews

Tom McRae – Étrange Hiver – Album Review

Released on 30th February, Étrange Hiver is the latest release from Tom McRae.  The 11-track album is a collection of duets with French artists in a mix of English and French, written and co-written by McRae.

The mixture of piano and strings on this album provide a beautiful backdrop for the lyrics – which, even if you don’t understand French, still captivate you.  The harmonies throughout are great, and the choice of singing partners by McRae was excellent – whilst all quite different, they each bring what that song needs, and the more you listen to any track, the more you appreciate this.

Whilst there’s no weak song on this album, there are highlights – and, for me, they are as follows:

Gingko – This is one of the songs completely in French, and is beautiful even without an understanding of the lyrics.  The voices of chien noir and Tom McRae work brilliantly together, the harmonies on the chorus had me closing my eyes to ensure I was not distracted whilst listening.

Speeding CarsClou’s voice starts this song, with the piano coming in after two lines, and the simplicity of this arrangement highlights the loveliness of the song.  

Étrange Hiver – Another of the tracks which is in French, this duet with Alex Beaupain draws you in with the accentuation used for the chorus and the sweeping strings.  

Habit of You – whilst I’m not usually a fan of the young-sounding voice that Naya has, it works beautifully with this song, and the more I listened the more I saw the wisdom of the choice.  There is a darkness to the song which Naya’s voice – and the youth and innocence you hear from it – provides a great juxtaposition which elevates this track.  There is a part about three minutes in that you just have to hear.  

A few of the tracks feature the saw.  If you haven’t heard it used in this manner before I would suggest you check out the glorious sound it makes, and the great addition it is to these tracks.

If you’re a fan of Tom’s previous releases you should check this out.  If you’ve never heard of Tom McRae, but love to hear music that has been brilliantly put together, and where you can see each note has been designed to get a response from the audience, this is an album for you.  Same goes for anyone who likes to sing along to some sad songs – although I’m afraid this album may be more uplifting than expected after a few listens.

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