Andrew Handrick: Distractions (2011)

Bio (excerpted from andrewhandrick.com):
Born in Dublin, Ireland, currently based in La Spezia, Italy, Andrew Handrick is a self taught musician playing edgy folk/rock with literate lyrics.  His early years were spent listening to artist such as Elvis and Dean Martin, later moving on to bands such as The Jam, The Who, The Velvet Underground and eventually understanding the lyrical mastery of Bob Dylan. While Simon + Garfunkel and REM were a big influence on his use of harmonies.  Fusing all these influences together Andrew has written songs which have been compared to Elliot Smith, Nick Drake, Goo Goo Dolls, Smashing Pumpkins, Dinosaur Jr, amongst others.

Musicians:
Andrew Handrick (Vocals, Guitar)

Andrew Handrick’s DISTRACTIONS makes we want to take a nap; before anyone freaks out, I’m not saying DISTRACTIONS is boring.  It’s calming, soothing, and dreamlike.  Handrick describes his music as indy / folk, and guess that would be about the best easily assignable label for it.  Handrick, a guitar, and a microphone: that’s the ingredient list for DISTRACTIONS.  There are rarely even any overdubs; I’m sure listening to Handrick performing these songs live would sound very very similar to DISTRACTIONS.

Handrick and his guitar, doing what they do

DISTRACTIONS is a very simple album with some complex themes.  It is just Handrick and his guitar, singing about the things songwriters sing about: happiness, girls, love, etc.  There’s nothing that is really that different about DISTRACTIONS than most other indy / folk singer / songwriter’s albums; there’s no crazy guitar shredding or odd dubstep breaks or anything out of the ordinary, and that’s good.  This is an album that will be greatly appreciated by those listeners that appreciate this genre of music, because it does exactly what it is supposed to do, and it does it well.

Handrick’s voice is calming and strong.  While he’s not doing anything outrageous with his performance (again, that would be strange for this genre) like any operatic solos or falsetto, Handrick’s voice carries his music perfectly.  His voice – which on rare occasion is backed up by his own voice doing background work, but is mostly just a single copy of Handrick – works really well with the acoustic guitar work he puts in.  The guitar is mostly lightly strummed chords, nothing crazy, but it works and it fitting for what DISTRACTIONS is doing.  There are occasional scales and riffs to break up the chords, and it works.

Handrick in the hills of black and white

As a songwriter, Handrick again shines.  His themes are mostly what you’d expect from this type of album, love and life and whatnot, but his does have some skill with the wordplay.  I especially liked this bit from “Good Hearted Girl”: You’re a good hearted man / Never came with a plan / Just an honest word / In a dishonest world / Born on the 4th of a lie.

I felt that DISTRACTIONS could have been a bit stronger if it was not a one-man show.  While I really like Handrick’s voice, and he is a good guitarist, I really felt that a lot of the songs might benefit from some bass and drums to accompany them.  I realize that this is probably not what Handrick does – he’s a singer / songwriter, a man with a guitar and some lyrics – but some of the songs felt “flat” to me.  The times that DISTRACTIONS does have some background singing adds depth, and I think that the album as whole would be stronger if there was more to it.  Maybe not even the full band approach, maybe if there were just more overdubs, more layers of guitar, that might do it.  I know that means that hearing DISTRACTIONS live would not be the same as hearing DISTRACTIONS on CD, but you don’t have to recreate everything live.  One of the things that makes Smashing Pumpkins’ SIAMESE DREAM so powerful is the fact that there are layers and layers and layers of music going on there.  Sure, DISTRACTIONS doesn’t have to be an indy shoegaze album, it doesn’t have to have a wall of sound, but a bit more depth would suit it well.

And he rocks out a bit more!

Overall, DISTRACTIONS is a very pretty album.  It is soothing, it is calming, and it is nice to listen to.  It does what an indy / folk album should, and will be well appreciated by fans of that particular genre.  For those of us that aren’t so much into folk, it may be a bit underwhelming.  Since I enjoyed the album even though folk isn’t a genre I listen to much, I’m sure that those people that DO enjoy folk will love DISTRACTIONS.

Overall 6.5 / 10

DISTRACTIONS for sale: http://www.andrewhandrick.com/ or http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/distractions/id453794811

DISTRACTIONS site: http://www.andrewhandrick.com/

Andrew Handrick: Distractions
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