19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2003
I just can't get over it. This album contains ten fantastic songs, plain and simple. Marvellous arrangements, genius lyrics and a voice to make those so-called "Pop Idols" hang their heads in shame. Although there is the palpable air of sadness and loss (not reccomended if you are feeling down), there is an emotional intensity beyond "depressing" that arises out of this music. Take "Overthrown" which sounds incredibly eerie at first but get closer and it becomes the most fantastic love song. Another example is "Line of fire" which at first I thought was this creepy song about a stalker but now I'm not so sure, I think it's about angels watching over former lovers or something now. Of course, engaging lyrics are one thing but interesting thought-provoking musical arrangements are another, fortunately Tom does not disappoint here either and Ben Hillier (past credits include Elbow's "Asleep in the back") is a superb choice as producer. Musically, the opener "A Day Like Today", "You Only Diappear" and "Mermaid Blues" are the highlights, the latter will send shivers down your spine, if it doesn't, it would be prescient to check that you're still breathing!
OK. So there are only ten tracks, it's a bit draining emotionally and you've never heard him before. Don't worry about that, take my advice and buy this album. You won't regret it.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 13 February 2003
One word can easily encapsulate Tom McRae. You can choose that word, but "flawless" will be a synonym. However, for an artist so easily described, to categorise him is almost impossible - he simply does not fit into the modern world of poppy tosh and whining nu-metal. There's something wonderful about hearing a true singer-songwriter with so much talent in amongst the dross - artists like Ryan Adams and Tom McRae. McRae isn't Adams, however - his music is sombre and on occasion treads the line of being just a little too complaining; but the genius of this man is that he never ever crosses that line. Instead, just when you begin to consider thinking that negative thought, the power of his voice, lyrics and music washes it all away.
"Just Like Blood" is perhaps a little more upbeat than his debut; make no mistake, this is still a beautiful exercise in melancholia, but with the greatly increased instrumentation McRae has had access to this time around, there's less of the plaintive "voice and piano" moments. Like all truly talented musicians, this album evolves McRae's style; it's still "him" in every way, but this is a step forward, helped by that increased instrumental aspect and novelty sound effects his new producer has used to augment the music. Everything is polished, and each song feels complete in every way - not one leaves you dissatisfied. And each song has it's own defining aspect which stays with you, whether it's a particular riff or McRae's voice or a single unexpected note. Much like his debut, I don't find myself humming just one favourite song, but the entire album gets itself lodged in my head. It's not a bad mental companion.
Although this is all somewhat gushing and imprecise, it's a hard task to get across just how good this album is. From an analytical stance, it's hard to pick out specific tracks when they are all of such high quality - though Mermaid Blues, You Only Disappear and A Day Like Today are seriously impressive. As McRae himself says on his website (tommcrae.com), his music is all about finding that transcendent moment when you've lost yourself - you could be crying or laughing and you just don't know why. To say his songs are from the heart would be the ultimate understatement; so much emotion comes across in his lyrics that you can't help but close your eyes and feel those emotions too.
It's really rather good. Do buy it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 13 April 2003
In a time where even hints of anything resembling that which is dubbed "accoustic", are increasingly hard to find, Tom McRae continues to provide beautiful instumentals, accomanied by striking vocals, the likes of which haven't been heard since the late Jeff Buckley. "just like blood" is vastly different from McRae's debut album, both possitively and negatively. On a whole, "just like blood" is excellently constructed and the songs do seem to be "fuller". Drums, piano and guitar are a lot more prevelent in comparison to his Debut album, where Tom's voice took centre stage. The guitar sound is used to full effects on tracks like "Mermaid Blues", and it works incredibly well. I am still unable to decide on which album is better, as they are very different. The Debut screams honesty and his lonely voice is haunting at times. The shere simplicity helps to amplify the lyrics. However, "just like blood" is deffinitely a lot more friendly to the ears, a genuine "pop in the cd player and drive" cd. Either way, both are incredible albums. I suggest that you give this a listen to, and if it grabs you (rather, when it grabs you, for it is certain to please), run down to the CD shop and purchase the first album. "walking to hawaii", "Mermaid blues", "a day like today" are good tracks, but only when listened to in its entirety, does this album display its true brilliance.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2003
Tom McRae’s debut album was a work of rare beauty so expectation is high for this, the follow up, the one they proclaim will make him a star. As I’ve had his first album for over a year and I’m still finding new things to love about it it feels a little rash to offer a review after only three days but here are my first impressions.
Firstly, this is quite a different album in a number of ways as the production forms a much more important part of the sound. The debut, though musically proficient, stood out on strength of the vocals and particularly the lyrics. While these still form a vital part of what’s going on here it’s at a stage removed. The vocals on Overthrown are buried particularly deep in the mix. There is little of the stripped down emotional intensity that characterised his first album and to begin with this is a little disconcerting but it pays off in the end.
When it comes to subject matter though things do get a little more personal and there are songs that seem to be directed to particular ends and people rather then just thrown into the face of an uncaring world. Mermaid Blues, perhaps the best track on the album, seems almost to be a love song albeit one expressed through Tom’s own particularly dark idiom. Walking 2 Hawaii seems to deal with suicide. The overall themes: the end of the world, drowning, disappearing, blood, stalking and pure spitting viciousness haven’t been diluted at all this time round, if anything they are stronger.
The major trouble with reviewing an album like this is that it is bound to be comparative, at least until the masses get there hands on it. I came to Tom McRae with no expectations, I heard the album before I’d heard of him, whereas I’ve been waiting for this one for a while now. So I’m going to finish by just talking about this one. Just Like Blood is a brilliant, tender, dark and unsettling album that succeeds in evoking several different moods over its short length (just 40 mins). Tom’s voice is astonishing throughout and the songs, though delicately constructed, are of considerable weight. It’ll be the best thing released this year and it will get better every time you play it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Tom McRae's debut arrived over two years ago with little more than a murmur. This time round it's a different story. Just Like Blood, the eagerly anticipated follow up comes with more publicity and a bit more mainstream attention, but is it justified?
From the start of the opening track, you already know there's been a progression in Tom's sound as it begins with tinkling percussion, 'A Day Like Today' is a much stronger opening than 'You Cut Her Hair' which was the weak point of the debut. The album also begins with a friendly "welcome back". The only problem with that is that "Just Like Blood" doesn't feel like the intimate friend that was "Tom McRae".
Track two, 'You Only Disappear' hints at the downbeat sound of Tom's first outing but still manages to move on, with more complex arrangement.
"Ghost of a Shark" could perhaps even be passed off as one of Ryan Adams' more sombre moments but with more echo. A Ryan Adams comparison is no bad thing however, merely evidence of a slight change in direction from the previous album. A similar comparison could be made of "Overthrown", this time with recent Beck material.
Tom's distinctive voice ensure you always know it's him though. There's still the slightly morbid lyrical fascination with death. "Walking 2 Hawaii" seems to be a song about the world ending but spending it with the one you love.
The title of the next track, "Mermaid Blues", tells you that there's no sign on Tom lightening up, and it doesn't come with the final tracks either. "Karaoke Soul", "Line of Fire" and "Human Remains" contain references to blood and more death, there's a theme here. Maybe it's the rural Suffolk upbringing with two vicars as parents that messes you up a little bit but if it brings us an musician this good then you can't see that as that bad a thing.
"Just Like Blood" was a long time in coming and it's a much more accomplished album, with a bolder sound, clearly there's increased production values here (Ben Hillier has done a great job) and there are many more musical influences. "Just Like Blood" is the album that is going to make Tom McRae into a superstar, this is an outstanding album on a par with his debut. There isn't the feeling of intimacy that was on the Mercury and Brit nominated debut but that's alright because this album has a different sound. This album will probably get Tom nominations for many awards, and what's different this time, it that "Just Like Blood" will win them.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2003
I hang my head in shame. I'd never heard of Tom McRae (and I'm a radio presenter) until I walked into a record store two hundred miles from my home town while on holiday. As soon as A Day Like Today kicked in over the store PA system, I stopped in my tracks. And then bought it on the spot. This album is truly arresting. At last, after a surfeit of manufactured and over-hyped bland pop, something intelligent, original, heartfelt, melodic and lyrical. If you like early Peter Gabriel, Coldplay, Turin Brakes, David Gray etc etc, then Just Like Blood will not disappoint. It's a swirling mix of folk, African rhythms, indie, bluegrass and I swear I even heard something like a theramin in there somewhere. Buy it, and see what all the fuss is about!
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2003
Not a lot of people have heard of Tom McRae. But don't let that fool you. His late-2000 self-titled debut blows other British acoustic artists such as Badly Drawn Boy and David Gray completely out of the water, drawing obvious comparisons to Nick Drake, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Its early days, but on the basis of this, McRae will better all three.
The album opens with 'A Day Like Today', and with the very first line "Welcome back says the voice on the radio / but I never left I was always right here" you can almost feel the smirk on McRae's face as the chinking melody chime perfectly over swooning keyboards, climaxing in a crashing chorus in which McRae wishes he could "love you to death...": a minute into the album and you're hooked. The next track 'You Only Disappear' is the pride of the collection, McRae's voice tears through your very soul as he delivers possibly his finest vocal performance to date, the drums reverb over a sweeping sea of sound, before the storm calms and the album nestles into the quieter 'Ghost Of A Shark'; another triumph. The quietest song on the album, it is perfectly measured along with the following jazz-tinged 'Stronger Than Dirt'. Both lead on to 'Overthrown' an unusual electric effort, McRae's voice is distorted to drive home the frustration and confusion espoused within the track. Halfway through the album you're wondering whether it can really get any better. The next song does exactly that.
Walking2Hawaii is vying to be the best song on the lp, indeed the opening verse "falling feels like flying 'till you hit the ground / and everything is beautiful 'till you take a look around / so let it go..." is as beautifully poetic as he has ever written. The soundscape here is as close to perfect as your ears will ever experience, the Oli Krauss' cello pulls and throws you over Tom's gorgeous arpeggio's and the song leaves you quite breathless - quite apt considering the final verse (buy it to see what I mean!). This is proceeded by the stunning 'Mermaid Blues' if only for the cello chaos, and single 'Karaoke Soul', the 'A&B Song' of the album, demanding his enemies 'hold me close when you stick in the knife". Chilling stuff indeed.
The album concludes with the hushed, gentle 'Human Remains', a perfect conclusion to an almost-faultless album, it cleverly fades into silence with McRae asking you to "tell me whats next?". With that the album opens with a wish and closes with a question. Over the 10 tracks it pins you against a wall and challenges you to dare not even breathe for fear of missing a note. Its not as bleak and raw as the debut (Blur & Elbows Ben Hillier takes production credits) but an ambitious relocating of the goal-posts. Its flawless in its execution, with 'Just Like Blood' McRae establishes himself as perhaps the superior lyricist - word-smith more concisely - of his generation. You know, more people should know about Tom McRae. A lot more people...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 January 2004
Tom McRae established himself as a singer-songwriter of some renown with his self-titled debut, and 'Just Like Blood', a line taken from a Simon Armitage poem, is an excellent follow-up, full of innovation, melancholy and occasional outbursts of spite and vigour.
There is a definite semantic field for me in this record, the jungle. There are some really beautiful instruments, such as the xylophones and slide guitars on opener 'A Day Like Today' and the sound of crickets in the distance on the stunning 'You Only Disappear', creating a dark, other-worldly atmosphere. It's hard to believe that McRae actually recorded this album in a studio rather than the South American rainforests. It's lucky, really, that the listener is caught up in the heady cocktail of musical ingenuity because though McRae has a decent enough voice, his lyrics range from thoughtful ('I'd walk to you if I could trust my feet') to the downright unfathomable ('What is the difference between a shark and the ghost of a shark?'.
To the music, though - which is always surprising and only occasionally dull (as demonstrated in the plodding 'Overthrown' and the rather disappointing final track 'Human Remains'), but the wealth of excellent material here far outweighs anything under par. 'You Only Disappear' is the highlight of the album, with insistent piano and a lovely chorus that fully showcases how well McRae can sing when he puts his mind to it. 'Walking 2 Hawaii' is another wonderful ballad; all hushed vocals and trademark guitar arpeggios, with a driving bassline and some truly weird synth sounds that again evoke the image of the dark, dank jungle. McRae is also capable of stepping up a gear, however, as shown on the powerful 'Karaoke Soul', complete with Indian strings and pounding drums, and on 'Stronger than Dirt' where McRae declares he is "stronger" and "braver" than his intended target, who is incidentally never mentioned.
An excellent choice for someone wishing to shy away from the constant stream of manufactured pop and insipid, uninspired punk and nu-metal, this record will appeal to just about anyone, just as long as they give it more than a couple of quick spins.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2003
I gave this album 5 stars because I couldnt give it more..... The only album that I could really say sends shivers down my spine....
10 tracks or pure music and lyrical genius, once you have heard it, see him live he is awesome... Only negative point, he is, and he agrees, a depressing songwriter.
So to recap, a stunning album of meaningful well written and beautifully sounding songs, but not to be listened to just after spliting with your boy/girl friend.
Please buy and enjoy and let me bask in the that "see, I told you so feeling....."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
To be honest with you, I had never heard of Tom McRae before. I presumed it was another wistful indie moaner beset by delusions of Morrissey or Buckley. But no, this album is a thing of rare and poignant beauty. After hearing A Day Like Today on Q Music TV I was transfixed at how such a delicate song had buried it's way into me! And the rest of the album did not disappoint. I cannot recoomend this album enough, it is my best discovery of the year!