The singer-songwriter market is a crowded one. How does one go about standing out? It’s an impossible question to answer really, all an artist can do is get their head down and work at their craft. It seems to us at DOGS though, as far as the UK goes, and in terms of radio play, the golden ticket is getting on a national BBC radio playlist and staying there for as long as possible, clinging on for dear life.
For acoustic-based music or the balladeer, the radio stations are arguably Radio 2 for more classic songwriting and Radio 6 for more arty or leftfield fare, though the two sometimes of course cross over. What of Conor McAteer then? Well the first two tracks on his new album ‘I Was An Astronaut’ are fantastic examples of songs that could potentially help make McAteer’s presence felt on either of the aforementioned stations with the right support.
First off there is ‘Cricklewood’, a great opener, laced in wobbly sounding keys and wispy, reverb-laden vocals that seems to marry the first hints of psychedelia entering the pop realm in the 1960s with more contemporary references, Ray LaMontagne perhaps. There’s your 6 Music track. Right there. Next up is ‘Atlas’, a more straightforward song that Radio 2 listeners would surely lap up. It’s expertly written, performed, engineered and produced. Nothing is overplayed. It’s all about the song, as encapsulated by the perfectly pitched piano line and then the backing ‘ooohs’ that later enter the fray, the guitar, bass and drums keeping everything bobbing along as they should, the perfect frame for the lead vocal.
McAteer has always had a knack for writing a tune. He’s a craftsman in that sense and that this release would exhibit continued and consistently solid songwriting was something of a given. Thus what is more striking right from the outset with this album is that it represents a noticeable evolution in the distinctiveness of the overall sound, and there’s evidence in tracks such as ‘Heart & the Harbour’ and ‘Interlude No. 1’ of an increasing willingness to experiment more freely with the medium and also a heightened proficiency when it comes to using the studio as an instrument. Credit for the latter must also surely be extended to the team McAteer has been working with. A truly lovely album. Give it a go.