A dual-sided, loving tale
Devon Welsh’s second solo effort accurately foretells its contents through its title, much in the same way his debut’s moniker, Dream Songs, embodied an overall sound. However, True Love reflects the compositional method of the work’s creation more than the end result; the songs are all personally written in their individual ways. Relying on a layer-cake of brief melodies and a strong vocal presence rather than extended passages and sonic bombast, the ten tracks interweave some weighty lyrics, delivered unashamedly.
As a result, the collection displays a methodical deliberation that may feel slow and uneventful on first-listen, especially during the first half of the set. “Uniform” begins with an indirect proclamation of love, backed mostly by a basic, keys-driven theme. The transparent treatment of Welsh’s voice carries the tune through a soft, lingering opener. The following track, “It’s a Game,” adopts the same ethereal tone, albeit with more adventurous instrumentation and a slightly quickened pace. “Somebody Loves You” continues to move the timbre towards earthier tones, even if the somber lyrics paint a different picture. By the time Welsh sings, “I’m digging a hole” on the titular, “True Love,” it can be tough to imagine him climbing out of his self-created mire. None of this is to suggest that the music isn’t great and engaging, only that it requires a commiserating mindset, or at least a readiness to fully step into Welsh’s musical sketches.
“Songbird” welcomingly changes the mood to begin the second half of the album with a guitar cadence that is truly upbeat. The prose continues to wax morbid with references to “sacrifice,” “war” and “death,” but the musical feel changes definitively. Another ray of light, this time through electric piano, introduces and concludes, “Faces.” The chorus of rhyming couplets, with their final lines vocally elongated, begin a unique verse/chorus structure that is the most original of the album. “Grace” might be the pinnacle of the effort. It incorporates the album’s best and most hopeful lyrics, and Welsh’s voice is soulful and endearing over a folksy strummed guitar—Tim Buckley would be proud.
True Love concludes surprisingly with “Dreamers,” perhaps the only track where the instrumentation and sounds overshadow Welsh’s voice. Forward-looking and searching, the lyrics and spacey sounds evoke memories of Vangelis while bringing the album to an optimistic close that would be hard to fathom in light of the opening tracks. In a way, the album is a “tale of two EPs.” The disparity between the two halves is held together by a voice that is full, profound and rangey, as well as brutally honest. Pick either half or be adventurous and listen straight-through; the album won’t appeal to everyone because of its varied nature. That doesn’t mean that Devon Welsh hasn’t put forth a great second solo salvo to complement his decade of impressive musical efforts.