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Archy Marshall, a.k.a. Zoo Kid, a.k.a. King Krule, has built his reputation on sparse jazz arrangements and a Morrissey-meets-Etta James sense of despair as well as range. His debut LP ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’ does nothing to challenge this notion of him. The very title conjures ideas of death and romance. As he himself admits, he’s “just another disappointed soul,” and draws upon some respectable influences, merging modern indie rock sensibilities with the intimacy of classic soul to create a very unique expression of loneliness, though he be joined by a great many common throes of woe. However, all of this was true on his last EP, yet something feels a bit lost here. While EPs by new artists tend to be compact and spunky, serving well those artists who demonstrate sufficient heart and eagerness to make a name for themselves, the LP is typically where you can prove you’ve got what it takes. And while the brevity of the EP format served Marshall well on the ‘King Krule EP’ due to his ever-present sense of urgency and briskness, here he sounds strained,  with the expansive echoing of the music telling much about how the expansiveness of an LP may leave a little too much empty space to live up to the hype.

The LP is full of echo and reverb, which accomplishes a few things. For one, it makes Marshall’s voice stick out like a neon sign that says “HURT” in the darkness. For example, on “Ceiling,” where the music consists of a simple drum beat and some interjected piano plinking, while Marshall’s low growl bemoans being “bathed in doubt,” all of it laden with echo, it feels like being in a huge dark room, where either you take on the role of Marshall’s lover, or perhaps Marshall himself, forcing you to do nothing but reflect, alone with nothing around for comfort, almost like bring trapped inside your own depressive mind. The contrast is most stark on album standout, “Out Getting Ribs,” which has a single guitar playing alongside Marshall’s wounded baritone, growing ever more urgent until building to an intimidating climax and burning out to a defeated moan. There are some interesting bits of musical experimentation throughout. On “Baby Blue,” guitar reminiscent of old jazz crooners is accompanied by a hip-hop drum loop in the beginning, again, bridging the gap between avant-garde and retro. The lyrics on the album are exactly what they should be, given Marshall’s association with jazz and soul – simple, straightforward verse about heartbreak and despair. On “Border Line,” for example, he introduces the theme of stark division, ruminating on “distorted lines” and “enforced divides,” playing with the idea through every iteration he can muster, with a catchy rhythmic delivery that can’t be afforded to miss. While all these are laudable strengths that place Marshall among the best new acts of the year, in comparison to his earlier work, it’s not quite as powerful. The heartbreak doesn’t seem immediate like it did on his last EP, but more like he’s been dwelling on the same feeling he’s had for 4 months. The music is indeed supposed to feel expansive and sonically empty, his voice can get lost in the void more often on this LP. “Foreign 2” is probably the greatest offender in this regard, feeling almost more like a doodle than a legitimate song, empty without much contrast, vocals moody but not strikingly so. The cracks won’t break the album, but in the context of the singer’s output thus far, they can be hard to ignore.

In all, the album is a pleasant listen. It’s got some really interesting arrangements, the lyrics and especially the baritone, thickly accented voice are very endearing, and the atmosphere is inescapable. While it’s not quite all that it could be, for a debut it shows a whole lot of promise, and if he can grow his songwriting talents from here, rather than reach back to his EPs for inspiration, I think King Krule could come back with something truly great and impressive. A great document to have if you want to chart the growth of an emerging artist, a fairly good listen if that’s all your looking for, but not a game-changing moment for indie singer-songwriters.

 

Recommended Tracks: Border Line, Ceiling, Baby Blue, Out Getting Ribs

GRADE: 7.7/10

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