Luke Ritchie – The Water’s Edge (Album Review)
The Water’s Edge started life as an experiment by Luke Ritchie: in 2010 he set himself the challenge of writing a song each week for six months, and posting them online as podcasts. He then picked ten of the best to be released as his first album, which has been produced by Paul Savage (Franz Ferdinand, Arab Strap, and Mogwai).
To see how people would react to the album Ritchie recorded the songs on to eighty mp3 players, and put them inside tobacco tins along with instructions to listen and then pass on, and to photograph the tins in interesting locations. Ritchie says, ‘people have sent back pictures from Tibet, the Pyramids, from a beach in Australia.’
This sense of not taking himself too seriously is also found in many of the songs on The Water’s Edge. Ritchie starts off as a singer-songwriter/folk musician, but having to write and record a new song each week meant that he wasn’t afraid to experiment and see what he could add to his songs to make them more than regular folk songs.
Even though ‘Shanty’ deals with a big subject – Ritchie says that he wrote it ‘around the time of the American elections. It’s about remembrance, about a country being at war for reasons that don’t seem true’ – it isn’t bogged down in politics but is instead a fast paced, catchy pop song, starting with an acoustic guitar followed by a thumping bass drum.
His influences are diverse, from Led Zeppelin, Soundgarden and grunge to Paul Simon and Sam Cooke. He says, ‘I like dynamic singers and powerful songs – and you can get a lot of power from acoustic instruments.’
The grunge influence is present in the song ‘Cover it up’. The rhythm is much heavier than the rest of the album, and the singing is faster and more aggressive. While ‘Cover it up’ clearly has some influence from grunge, it is undeniably pop – but very good pop, and one of the best songs of The Water’s Edge.
‘Words’ is a slower song, starting with Ritchie singing over a piano. It’s about him and a lover who ‘conjured up the world/with the words that she spoke’, but he ‘can’t find the words to make it all right’. Writing and recording a new song every week, he was bound to have some repetitions: ‘Butterfly’ has a very similar rhythm and tempo to ‘Shanty’, but it’s just about different enough to make it worthwhile to listen to both.
Luke Ritchie is a strong singer, but is still trying to find his own voice. He hasn’t yet got over the phase of imitating his idols: little bits of Chris Cornell and Sting, among others, can be heard in places.
After seven upbeat pop songs, the tone of the album unexpectedly changes to slow and moody with the songs ‘Looking Glass’ and ‘Right Then And There’. While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with having some more downbeat songs, or the quality of the two mentioned songs, this surprise shift gives the end of The Water’s Edge a depressing note. The final track, ‘ Song To Sundays’ goes some way to remedying this – it is ever so slightly more upbeat – but not far enough.
While Luke Ritchie doesn’t exactly do anything ground-breaking here, he has still created a strong début album in The Water’s Edge.