The Verse’s Tamara Stidwell reviews Johnny Flynn’s new album Sillion, which he launched at St George’s Church in Brighton on the 24th March.
Sillion is Johnny Flynn’s fourth album. It includes the tracks Barleycorn, Wandering Aengus, Raising The Dead and Heart Sunk Hank. An actor, poet, and songwriter, Johnny Flynn has managed to change his style immensely since the days of his homely folk group The Sussex Wit, yet also maintain a sense of authenticity in doing so.
Flynn is known for lauding both W.B. Yeats and Shakespeare as influences of his poetic style, and Flynn’s first debut album, A Larum was tantalisingly English; “When you live in a box by the rails/ don’t comb your hair don’t comb your tails”. Yet 10 years later, Sillion storms on the scene with the Americana vibe of a country ode; “Your old man’s in the kitchen/ He’s a smile short of laughing/ And the radio’s a-beaming”.
Raising the Dead is a gradual, jangly melodic beat, with vibrant backing chorus and layers of instrumental sounds; complemented by Flynn’s mature command of the lyrics. His voice is deeper yet mellow in comparison to his earlier styles; and it perfectly matches the song’s warming tale of the cycle of life. Raising the Dead, Flynn says was inspired by the birth of his daughter, reminding him of the loss of his father; “My Dad died when I was 18, and that was quite a galvanising experience,” Flynn says, “and there’s often an element of that in anything I’m writing; every big loss that you suffer in life.”
Wandering Aengus is a lively assortment of strings, scratchy pulses and dynamic chorus. Repeatedly heralded “The song for Wandering Aengus” throughout, it encapsulates a triumphant nostalgia. Obviously deriving from Yeats poem Wandering Aengus, which pictures a man walking through the woods, to catch a fish which becomes his lover;
Flynn develops a similar beauty of expressive flair, with optimistic percussive sounds. Flynn cries “Let me lift my heart and free my song from pain”. It is a song indeed that is free from pain, and exudes emotive victory.
Barleycorn does, as Contact music said; “feel like the soundtrack of a Western adventure movie”. It is full of the flavour of Americana, with the temper of a shoot-out in a saloon. Heart Sunk Hank released earlier this year, is also on the album and comprises of nice smooth riffs, accompanied by that timeless English twang, as he bids so long to the “broken parts of me” because “I will fix you up inside my dreams.”
The only fixing needed of Sillion is that it can be a little bit too repetitive, and I feel Flynn could drop more hooks in his tracks to keep them impulsive, charged and organic. But Sillion certainly emanates a philosophical flavour of life, looking back at the old man in the kitchen, love between a mother and daughter and the fate of star-crossed lovers. It is full of humility and poetic pragmatism. Perhaps, all this “timeless” album needs is a little more time.
Johnny Flynn’s new music video for Raising the Dead is here.
Johnny Flynn’s new music video for Wandering Aengus is here.