‘I'm not the man they think I am at home/Oh no no no I'm a quiet man/Quiet man burning out his fuse up here alone’ is not how any of the choruses on the third LP from Roo Panes go. Mostly they sound like stuff that he’s swept up from Bon Iver’s cutting-room floor while Justin Vernon nipped out for a quick game of backgammon with Kanye. His earnestly intense quiver of a voice is accompanied by some earnestly intense instrumentation on Quiet Man - mostly guitar, drums, piano and those little chemtrails of reverb that Olafur Arnalds puts on everything. Bear Grylls probably loves this album.
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He might be a quiet man, but is he as quiet as Jon Krasinski was in A Quiet Place? The answer is a resounding no, folks: Roo Panes sings songs, and no matter how soft they may be, they are nonetheless audible. Like Bon Iver shot through a lush environment and a bunch of pretty intense arrangements, Panes has made a record of emotional fanfare just begging to reverberate in your heart. Cooing for the heck of it.
“A Message To Myself” is an immediate mapping out of Panes sound: stellar arrangements with horns, strings and piano make him sound more serene than you’ve ever been for one second of your life, his voice calm but breaking into a sweat as his melodies stop lilting and start rising. It’s lovely stuff, suggesting both bravado and fragility without faltering. The overwhelmingly sweet guitar picks and piano flickers of “Sketches of Summer” immediately recall the recent output of Sufjan Stevens if it were a bit more out in the open, offering one man alone… with nature. The mandolin strums of “A Year in A Garden” are spindly and fast, like pouring rain watched from afar. All in all, it’s music focused in on beauty, as if capturing a panorama of seasons calmly changing.
If you like folk music that sounds like it belongs more to the cinema than to a music stage, ‘Quiet Man’ is for you. Panes’ melodies are good, but they’re slight, existing in service to a bright, beaming production job and very bold, affirmative instrumentation. It’s more about decoration than song, and he triumphs best when he's just putting all the pieces together to create a finished landscape puzzle.
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