Some 15 years ago, the singles charts still mattered, and pop music had a broad cultural reach which seems to have since evaporated. Watching Fearne Cotton and Clara Amfo spouting about how it had been impossible to miss the various artists featured on this year’s Christmas Top of the Pops left me perplexed: I’d barely even heard of any of them, let alone their supposedly ubiquitous songs, all of which were, of course, ‘amazing’ or ‘brilliant’. Only, ‘amazing’ and ‘brilliant’ seem to have become synonyms for ‘bland, vapid cack’ in the years I wasn’t really paying attention.
Anyway, back in 2005, Nizlopi – a duo comprising Luke Concannon and John Parker – scored the Christmas #1 with ‘JCB Song’. It may or may not have been deemed ‘amazing’ or ‘brilliant;, but it laned as something of a surprise, being uncynical and not overtly Christmassy in any way.
After sporadic live shows over the last decade, the duo finally finally called it a day in 2020, marking the occasion with a greatest hist album – although an EP or a second re-release of JCB would have probably done the job.
Luke Concannon marks a fresh start and a fresh year with his debut solo album, and having caught him performing solo back in 2014, realise there’s probably more to him and his music than one may expect. As was the case with his commercial peak, there’s nothing calculated or cynically commercial about ‘Ecstatic Bird in the Burning’ and whether or not his music is particularly to your taste, it’s hard not to admire him as a musician who clearly isn’t driven by the quest for commercial success.
Concannon offers a diverse range of songs, from the gospel-funk singalong of opener ‘Absolument’ to the laid-back, sparsely-arranged folksy acoustic singer-songwriter stylings of ‘Doing Nothing’, via the minimal country of ‘It Won’t Wait’ and the downtempo ‘Coventry’ and while they’re accessible, they’re also remarkably natural. Not every song is a standout, and nor is every song on ‘Ecstatic Bird in the Burning’ intended to be: it’s very much written as an album, with an arc, a flow, and it’s all the better for it.
Concannon has a clear ear for melody, but as importantly, his songs are abundantly honest, both lyrically and compositionally – there’s nothing showy about any of them – sincere in their simplicity.
If ‘Ecstatic Bird’ proves anything, it’s that Concannon is an accomplished songwriter and a man with energy and convictions, and the result is a sold album that’s hard to fault.