Barry Dolan in a busy man. After retiring Oxygen Thief as a full band project at the beginning of the year, he returns to his quieter, more reflective persona Non Canon for a tricky second release.
As an artist, Dolan has a personality split almost entirely down the middle. With Oxygen Thief, the metal influence is unavoidable, and with Non Canon, influences lean further towards traditional songwriters.
Non Canon II starts with an honest, introspective look at the effects of a constant negative news cycle on mental health. The delicacy with which these emotions are conveyed creates a feeling of both intimacy and reliability, which serves as a comforting introduction to a release that continually asks the big questions.
There is a vocal style within this release that sits somewhere between the soothing honesty of Tony Sly and the conversational style of Craig Finn with additional nods towards label mates Frank Turner, Ben Marwood, and Chris T-T. Despite there being obvious comparisons, the vocals on this release make it both individual and instantly recognisable.
Fitting with the Xtra Mile mould, this is a release packed with singalongs that are crying out to be repeated in a sunny field. ‘Dark Force Rising’ shares a powerful message of love and acceptance, and such forward-thinking is essential in both the real and aural world right now.
This is an expansive release that draws comparisons throughout a vast selection of musical styles and artists. There are tiny delicate moments that create an album that feels both safe and purposeful. The instrumental of ‘MMXIX’ makes an idyllic interlude in the middle of the album, combining the delicate strings of Badly Drawn Boy or Sigur Ros with the rolling basslines of Surfer Blood or Brontide. This interlude provides just the right amount of time to reflect on the often heavy subjects within these songs.
As a complete piece of music, this is an album that shows a talent for composition; each instrument has a part to play. With gradual introductions, this is a release with a real flow and sense of purpose. Each track feels like an essential link between the previous and next song.
These links are built using lyrics, themes, and small musical moments effortlessly tying this album together. Although a heavily emotive album, Non Canon has a talent for uplifting even within the darkest moments. The use of Owen style trumpet and strings within ‘Self Untitled’ creates a truly joyous end to questions of nationality and citizenship. This songwriting style is as clever as the wordplay throughout, and despite encouraging the listener to seriously contemplate, there is always a smile hidden within each song. The humour is usually dark and the smile may well be wry, but these moments create an album that is a truly enjoyable listen.
As a second album, Non Canon II shows development in every moment. If there is one thing that stands out, it is the kindness and consideration throughout these ten tracks.
Non Cannon II is out on Friday 15th May. Pre-order it here.