Album Review: Jeremy Warmsley – How We Became

by Megan Costello on October 7, 2009

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How We Became is the album everyone forgot to notice when it came out last fall.  Then again, the only people that could have noticed it live in England.  America, I present to you the Jeremy Warmsley.

I stumbled upon Jeremy Warmsley on my quest to go through as many Blogotheque take-away shows as possible.  There Jeremy Warmsley was hidden, gangly and unassuming in front of a church, armed only with his acoustic guitar and his warbley voice.  I was smitten.  And so I found my way to How We Became.
It’s hard to characterize the album as a whole, it doesn’t follow a story line, follow the same theme, or have a unifying instrumentation. All that remains constant is the eagerness and honesty in Warmsley’s singing as he jumps through the roles of storyteller, lover, and young man searching for something. It’s this disarming charm that fuels the album from start to finish.

The album opens with “Lose My Cool,” beginning with a simple melody plunked out on a keyboard, paired with a drumbeat.  The song is a lover’s cry of helplessness, losing his cool and “the buttons from my dress shirt” at the hands of his love.  As the song builds and the pulse quickens, the keyboard is layered with synths and a crunchy drum machine.  The track runs away with itself, building and building until it all topples down into the lone keyboard.

The same instrumentation is used again on “If He breaks Your Heart” which is the sweetest bitter ballad ever.  Along with a pound of chocolate and a bottle of wine, it’s the perfect date for a lonely Valentine’s Day.  Every word is tinged with pain as well as hope. “If he takes the piss, I will break his face/ If he fucks around, I will kill him stone-cold dead…  If he breaks your heart/ Will I stand a chance?”  A friend of mine compared it to what the electronic Beirut album should have been; it doesn’t get bogged down in the sentimental crooning; rather, still bounces along to catchy hooks and blips and beeps.

Warmsley really shows off this inner crooner in the fantastic title track, “How We Became.”  He conjures up a new origin story, dreaming up a new Garden of Eden where flute sounds mingle with oooo’s and drum machines.

In “Dancing with the Enemy,” Warmsley proves that he’s not just a one trick pony and finds some help from a saxophone and piano to tell the story of an enemy soldier who’s fallen in love with a civilian girl.  It’s a bit cheesy, but I’d like to hope he knows it.  There’s a cowbell in the song for god’s sake.

“Waiting Room” is the theme of quarter-life crisis of the modern 20-something.  The song goes through an identity crisis, flipping between a sweet clarinet melody and heavy distorted guitars.  It’s as natural as puberty, but much less awkward.

The album ends with a piano ballad in which Jeremy shows off his piano chops.  He uses the event of cranes flying south as a marker of time, showing the end of a season and a symbol of reaching maturity.  It’s the simplest piece of the album: just vocals, piano and a drum kit.  It’s a much more mature and complete song than the blips along the way.

The rest of the tracks are definitely worth the listen. The album is well fleshed out, and each song has distinct sounds and movement to it. The bonus CD (if you order from Rough Trade’s online shop) is worth the extra shipping cost for two of the tracks: “The Boat Song,” a duet with Emmy the Great, and a cover of New Order’s “Temptation.”

All and all, “How We Became” is at times overly sentimental, and the vocals are sometimes strained, but in the end you can’t help but fall in love with Jeremy.

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Jeremy Warmsley is on Transgressive Records in the UK. He’s currently the 6th member of Fanfarlo and working on his new band called Acres, Acres. Check out his now defunct internet series, Welcome to Our TV Show, showcasing London’s indie talent.  Here in the colonies, his songs are available for download on iTunes.

Straight Outta Albion is an ongoing series of reviews of albums that are available in the UK, but not yet released here.

Megan Costello

radio dj and music reviewer stuck in the life of an architectural designer

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