Joe McAlinden (formerly of Superstar), reappeared on the musical scene in 2012 under the moniker Linden. Now, with the help of musicians Eric Lindsay, Marco Rea and Stuart Kidd McAliden, he took to “an old fisherman’s croft on the shores of Loch Fyne on the west coast of Scotland” to record Rest and be Thankful. While pleasant and an example of how instruments work best when they are given room, Rest and be Thankful might be a little too gentle, or rather restful, to grab much attention.
The clean electric guitar and general pastiche of the record invoke a 60s-inspired, unobtrusive pop sound. Lots of open space in the instrumentation allows light to shine through, creating a relaxed, natural presentation that doesn’t force itself on anyone. Simplicity in instrumentation as done on this album says a lot more with a lot less in comparison to bands trying to layer too many instruments with too many effects at the same time.
“Short Worm” opens with a mildly psychedelic, busy synth pattern becoming a little grungy, especially when the guitar digs deep into a broader chorus, McAlinden pushing his voice to a near-strain. Opening with a rich guitar, “Yesterday” jumps into a meter in six and the closest McAlinden gets to unbridled joy. Perhaps the standout track of the album (excepting the awful horns) might be “Broken Glass,” the most lyrically understandable and lushest in timbre with just voices, guitar and drums. Beyond slight differences such as these, tunes run together after awhile. But, the majority of the tracks clock in under three minutes, thus rarely overstaying their welcome.
On the downside, the horns on songs like “Dream Dream” or title track “Rest and be Thankful” are terrible; they don’t sound live, but sound produced via a standard keyboard voice. A real saxophone has a certain elasticity in every pitch as air moves through the horn, changing the harmonics present in the tone; it’s a living wave of air. Here, the horns have a seemingly physics-defying, clean-edged sound produced in the manner of an organ, therefore giving every note an artificial quality. It sticks out across the album.
Despite a transparent sound, it does nothing to make McAldinden’s diction audible. Of the lyrics that stand out, they include lines like “Cuz I’m ok. / Hope that you feel the same,” or “You read me like a book / and so my story grows.” “Broken Glass” says a little more: “Take a trip to Hollywood and act like nothing’s happening again.” Nothing earth-shattering, so maybe no matter fifty percent or more of the words are swallowed by the acceptable vocals of McAlinden.
Rest and be Thankful demonstrates the value of letting music breathe with clean and clear instrumentation, despite some seeming synth hiccups. However, without memorable lyrics, a truly grabbable hook or overall standout originality, Linden’s latest album isn’t a memorable one, but it’s certainly friendly. The colored vinyl release; however, looks amazing.