Wednesday, March 2, 2011

John Shipe - Villain


John Shipe - Villain
2010, Involushun Records

Villain opens with "Lion", an interesting reflection on culpability, responsibility and choices.  Delivered in a folk style, Villain displays a story-teller's flair and an aurally pleasing voice that calls to mind thoughts of Paul Simon and Elvis Costello.  "Villain" finds Shipe exploring the human tendency to root for the bad guy, whether in romance, movies or real world events.  It's a cute bit of songwriting, displaying a sense of wit that will appeal to fans of Lyle Lovett and Randy Newman.  "Love Belongs To Everyone" invokes images of a melancholy Elvis Costello, as Shipe engages in a good old fashioned dose of mutual self-pity.

Shipe entertains guest, and 2010 Wildy's World Artist of the Year Halie Loren in a duet on "Hard To Believe", an intriguingly sad love song.  Shipe sticks to his easy-going vocal style, while Loren offers a gorgeous husky alto sound to the mix.  The best moments come when Shipe and Loren blend their voices in harmony; the dichotomy of their respective sounds blends almost in spite of their distinct differences.  "What Right Do We Have To Fall In Love?" finds Shipe exploring the dysfunctions of love from the other side of the looking glass.  It's a unique perspective that works well.  Shipe deeps dig into romantic dysfunction with "Another Disaster", creating an incredibly catchy pop song in the process.  The comparisons to Costello are never stronger than they are here, and never more well deserved.  You'll be hearing this one in your head at inopportune times for days.

"No Use Crying Over A Spilt Life" blends apt, intelligent, lyrical prose with a thoughtful singer/songwriter arrangement that waxes and wanes with the emotional angst of the song.  This might be Shipe's finest songwriting to date.  "Dead Kite" is an emotional still life, a musical monologue written from the edge of a relationship's abyss.  Shipe examines the carnage from outside for the first time, waxing poetic on what drew him and what finally drove him away.  Villain closes with "Feel Good Song", a subtly cynical exploration of humanity's ability to make themselves feel better by burying themselves in ideas and reminiscences of the past and using them as an excuse for inaction in the present.  Shipe's focus here is religion, but may not be an outright attack on faith so much as an attack on people's desire to hide behind it.

John Shipe attacks social constructs with shadows and light on Villain, exploring the human weaknesses that drive mankind to do bad things rather than berating humanity for being anything other than it's cut out to be.  Shipe mixes cynicism and hope in unlikely measures while invoking thoughts of Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Lyle Lovett and Elvis Costello across the eleven songs presented on Villain.  The album is somehow more than the sum of its parts.  While Shipe's songwriting and musicianship are worthy of note, he possesses a quiet cult of personality that occasionally raises his performances to sublime.  There are certainly some quiet moments on Villain, but those quiet moments fade with successive listens.  This is one Villain that will grow on you.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about John Shipe at www.johnshipe.com or www.myspace.com/johnshipemusic.  Villain is available from Amazon.com as a CD or Download.  The album is also available from iTunes.