From the hills of North Wales, Isaac Birchall and his mate Andy Cooper have formed acoustic folk project Cats and Crows. Following from their 2016 EP, they have a new album with a timely mid-January release:
The opening “Bored” is most engaging, with some thick harmonies in the chorus a dynamic arrangement that gives the best elements of Ben Howard and Busted. Birchall exercises his instrumental talents with rhythmically engaging piano parts in “My friends on the wall”, to the sparkly guitars of “A Certain Kind”, to the wash of synths in “Up in the sky”. Even “I Know You” has an ambitious use of vocal delay to highlight an impulsive insanity.
Described as Isaac’s “innermost thoughts and feelings”, Winter gives themes of loneliness, nostalgia, and melancholy. But it is his escalating arrangements that help carry this album into something more than your average singer-songwriter indulgence. Birchall’s strong voice forms the life of this album, ranging from powerful to stoic with confidently tight harmonies making their presence firmly felt. Some of the later songs drag a little, but not without diary-like lyrics highlighting the twilight of his twenties.
The production is really good, with all the elements sitting firmly in place in a wide stereo field, although there is sometimes harshness on the acoustic guitars and darkness on the vocals. Despite the digital-sounding elements of the instruments, their strengths are accentuated in a manner that really compliments the album.
Overall, “Winter” gives an insight into Issac’s mind during his coming of age years, with this personal musical journey making for a charming listen to the soundtrack of a flickering candle or the sizzle of a rainfall. 7/10
You can listen to Winter here: