HomeMusicArun O’Connor Releases New Album

    Arun O’Connor Releases New Album

    Arun O’Connor’s songs prove, if nothing else, the old cliché that music is an universal language. The New Zealand born singer/songwriter tackles Americana/roots music as if he were born and raised in the American heartland instead of a geographically far-flung locale and there’s nothing in these songs that strike me as alien to our experiences. His efforts to capture that aforementioned sound are, fortunately, never slavish; he blends it, as well, with several other strands that, ultimately, produce a formula he can claim as his own. O’Connor’s debut album Songs from a Reading Room sparkles with the polish and ambition of a musical artist who knows their time has arrived.


    He goes big from the first. The album opener “When the Darkness Comes Around” doesn’t content itself with some singer/songwriter fare filled with acoustic guitars and pastoral melodies. O’Connor, instead, achieves a sound much closer to elevated pop folk. He writes about everyday realities any adult can relate to, but there’s often an added spin that gives his work a different quality. There’s evidence of that here. “Let Go Of My Heart” excels for many reasons, but I especially liked the longing I hear in O’Connor’s vocal. We don’t hear songs about the desire to be free from someone nearly as much as we do love’s other vagaries, and we’ll hear this theme recur during the release. This is a sparkling jewel, an obvious single in my opinion, and will find few detractors.

    “Games I Can’t Win” opens with interesting keyboard/synthesizer textures that the song expands on as it progresses. O’Connor occasionally opts for a slow simmer with his songs, and this is an excellent example as it builds from a muted beginning into full-scale orchestral trappings by the song’s end.  It’s fun for me to hear how O’Connor makes such liberal use of strings and keyboards of various stripes without ever compromising the “retro” feel of his album.

    “The Truth” comes across as one of those sorts of songs it took ten years or more to live and a couple of days to write. The slowly developing track awards listener’s patience with one of O’Connor’s best searching vocals and it’s an absolute joy to hear any singer, male or female, young or old, engage each line with such obvious emotion. “Star of Your Own Show” is a no-brainer pick for an album single, in my opinion, especially with its well-placed break in the song’s second half. It’s a virtual model of what songs in this vein should sound like while still delivering a meaningful lyrical and musical message.

    “Used” packs a musical wallop even if the song’s words are a bit more predictable than I’d like. He ends the album, however, with a memorable one-two punch of “When the Lights Go Down (In This Town)” and the instrumental reprise of “When the Darkness Comes Around”. The first of those two tracks is a dyed-in-the-wool radio rocker that never goes overboard and celebrates down-to-earth pleasures while the finale underlines the polish he’s put into this release. Arun O’Connor wants us to hear these twelve recordings as a body of work rather than a hodgepodge of individual moments and listening to Songs from the Reading Room holds up from beginning to end.

    Trace Whittaker

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