An Accomplished Songwriter Stretches to New Musical Heights
Irish musician Fionn Regan broke into music’s consciousness around 2006 with his debut studio album The End of History, a largely acoustic, contemplative record that saw songs featured on national television shows and earned him multi-continental acclaim. Although it has been five years since Regan’s last release, his latest effort, The Meetings of the Waters, promises to catapult him back into the conversation, but with new offerings that toy with drums, layers of keys, harmonies and electronic additions.
Already, Regan has generated buzz on the popular music scene due to Bon Iver using a sample from one of his tracks on last year’s “00000 Million” and Cillian Murphy starring in Regan’s music video for the title track and lead single. But these headline-friendly happenings are merely circumstances, whereas the album is a pure and simple work with plenty of dreamlike qualities and lush arrangements to soothe and inspire.
Things start strong on “The Meetings of the Waters,” with a muted drum beat and echoing harmonies surrounding an acoustic melody — already, we are introduced to a fuller sound than that with which Regan might be associated. But it’s not as though he has departed from his style, as the poetic metaphors ground the song in Regan’s messages, and the gentle, hypnotic keys and synths are not overused but blended well into the background of the song. Throughout the album, Regan’s voice still is centerstage.
“Cormorant Bird” has a more meditative pace, though it’s just as thoughtful. “The cloud pulled its curtain / but a light stayed where you sat,” Regan sings in a delicate tone. The first full-on acoustic track doesn’t kick in until “Turn the Skies of Blue On,” and it serves as a beautiful, brief interlude before “Cape of Diamonds,” which returns to the mid-tempo feel of the title track. It’s a song with tons of movement and the closest thing to a hook that Regan provides throughout the album: “I think I’m haunted by you lover.” Its light details and pretty, sweeping auxiliary make the track a perfect introduction to his newer, bolder sound if you had to pick one to catch a listener’s ear.
Other highlights include “Babushka,” which opens with a bar fight and spirals into noisy fuzz, culminating as the album’s most aggressive track, and “Euphoria,” which is as beautiful and blissful as the name implies, though it keeps the slow, steady and meandering pace that Regan’s other ballad tracks do. The song displays an uncanny ability to give off a morose feel when singing about something as, well, euphoric as feeling euphoria — but it’s a skill Regan uses deftly, adding layers of introspection. Then “Up Into The Rafters” takes things to cheerier places, heightened by falsetto harmonies and a march-style drumbeat.
While Regan’s expressive poetry is as central to the album as his recognizable voice, many of the multi-instrumental tracks seem as though they could stand on their own without lyrics, as they have something of a post-rock skeleton. Indeed, the 12-minute closer of “Tsuneni Ai” is a fluid and dreamy landscape sparsely populated by strings and vibrating, echoey tones. There’s no major climax, no eruption of noise, but it’s a beautiful piece that serves as a testament to Fionn Regan’s love of space and delicacy in music, as well as his skills in arranging and coming up with unique sounds.
Not only do those final 12 minutes provide a peaceful conclusion to a cohesive collection of songs, but they also provide a glimpse into Regan’s musical inspiration, offering up what he wants to say without words. Those who appreciated Regan’s past work might be most thrilled by this, as it shows that he can step beyond singer-songwriter territory and explore something much greater.