It’s a personal thing, but there’s a very, very thin line for me between being catchy and sincere, or being utterly annoying when you are busy channelling the kind of indie pop music that mobile phone companies would love to use. Tom Rosenthal stays firmly on the catchy and sincere route with his quirky song titles, happy misery and lovely vocal tone.
Each of the 15 tracks on Fenn follow a short but sweet format, with many of them under three minutes. It’s acoustic guitar, piano, simple rustic percussion and very little else thrown into the mix. That means you focus on the melody, mood and Tom’s voice and lyrics. “Throw The Fear” is a perfect example of the euphoric side of the album as he chants “we’re alive!” and then whistles off a little ditty before resuming. It’s cute, fun and uplifting in an album of dealing with life’s little moments. There’s an ode to pasta, and plenty of other songs that seem to create characters and situational lyrics that often imply don’t worry, we’re all in it together!
However, behind the happy chirps, there’s plenty of melancholy. “Oh No Pedro” is utterly heartbreaking as Tom’s falsetto waxes across your ears as piano and light strings tug at you with all the minor chords. Lyrically “I’m Quite Short for a Goalkeeper” is superb as the folk song juxtaposes various ideas with comical opposites whilst actually making you tear up. It’s this honesty and openness that’s Rosenthal’s secret sauce – there’s plenty of artists that go for the indie folk scene, but no one quite injects dark humour and sadness into such a bright place like Tom. Towards the end of the album, things take more of a brooding ballad mood with piano, strings and voice taking more of a driving seat. The hushed calm of “We Can Always Come Back” shows another side to Tom not present elsewhere – whereas “The Pleasure Was All Mine, Miguel” is an epic chorus of ballad and emotion.
I’ve chosen not to review the album track by track as it’s really a wonderful body of work that you can experience separately or all together as one album of rollercoaster thought. You’ll laugh and cry like a love story for one, and then cook some penne to warm the soul. Superb.
Recommended Track: My Lucky Pants Failed Me Again