Highlights: Catch, Border Song, Spanish Ants, I Can Take All This
I won’t lie: there’s very little I know about James Yorkston, and his recently released I Was A Cat From A Book was my belated introduction. Is it any good? Well, yes: very tasteful, tuneful, slightly understated, folksy pop music from a seemingly literate and (I’m guessing here) underappreciated songwriter.
Carrying on with this ‘under’ stuff, I’d say that my only complaint about this album lies in the fact that two or three moodier, mellower (having said that, it’s all rather mellow) numbers end up somewhat underwhelming. Particularly the lengthiest song here, “The Fire & The Flames”, that reminds me of Elliott Smith’s most brittle, vulnerable ballads. However, it’s mostly in the ‘minor classic’ territory, and you won’t be able to resist such thoughtful, melancholic beauties as “Catch” or “Sometimes The Act Of Giving”.
Still, my absolute favourites are the two ‘rockers’, “Border Song” and “I Can Take All This”, both upbeat and almost unbearably catchy. Pretty, too. The former in particular is among the best songs of the year, with its piano, guitar and violin creating something of an aural delight.
It may be so that I Was A Cat From A Book will waltz past you without leaving any serious impression, but that’s because the whole thing’s so blatantly subtle and modest. The record is flawed, granted, and it’s unlikely to change your life, but it’s a charming, melodic set that has both an edge and a nice flow. I’m stuck somewhere between a 7 and an 8, so it’s a toss of a coin.