Album Review: Wintercoats, Heartful

James Wallace has created the orchestral-ambient pop album Heartful. Recording under the name Wintercoats, he uses mainly his voice and violin. Complete with drony “oohs” and layered string sections, his music is both engaging and calm.Opening track “Heirloom” makes you feel like you’ve woken up after a deep sleep with the world coming into focus. Similarly, the song pulls itself together with a highly layered fade in. It starts with a slow drone of “ahhhs”, which are followed by a far-off glockenspiel. The vocals, full of harmony, ambience and reverb, create a warm serene feeling.The rest of the album uses similar vocal sound during each song and, although repetitive, it doesn’t tire on the listener. Wallace has a great gift with harmonies for both violin and his voice; however, at times the lyrics are lost in atmospheric reverb.One line that stands out on the album: “I need some light, but there’s no light” from the track “Halogen Moon”. It is held together with a glockenspiel hook that comes in and out as the song progresses. As well as the glockenspiel itself utilizing reverb and delay, its catchiness sets the song apart from the rest of Heartful.“Voyage” begins a cappella, before adding in a minimal bass line and floor tom. The strength of Wallace’s voice leaves one feeling many mixed emotions. The album ends with “Heartful (Burial Reprise)”, which is soothing with its spacey piano and gentle whispery vocals.Ambient pop music is an emerging scene in Australia, with both Melbourne and Sydney producing musicians and bands in this genre. Yes Please Records, who Wintercoats is signed with, also host similar bands such as The Townhouses, I’lls and Oliver Tank.Having been around since 2009, Wintercoats have polished their sound with Heartful continuing the genre of orchestral-pop music. The album is fantastic in that each song is brilliantly layered and calmingly emotive. The main criticism, however, is that the dynamics and tempo remain steady throughout. This aside, Heartful is perfect to listen to first thing in the morning or late at night due to its well-arranged ambient Simon Findlay

May 8th 2013
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