Sometimes it’s not easy to be a musician. There is an element of vulnerability you must subject yourself to in order to find even a marginal amount of success. This, of course, rings true with most aspects of art in general, but there exist certain musicians who go beyond this unspoken requirement, laying all cards on the table face-up in an effort to further substantiate their craft. Ian McCuen is one of those musicians. In his first solo release–the exceptionally reflective Songs of Fleeting Permanence, Vol. 1–McCuen stirs up the acoustic singer-songwriter archetype with an interesting concept series chronicling a pivotal period in his life. Volume 1 of that series is our Album of the Week.
It is through McCuen’s Fleeting Permanence series in which one can vicariously live (or relive) these moments of self-discovery. The tangibility of heartbreak, uncomfortable social situations, mortality, regret, alcohol–Fleeting Permanence grapples each of these heavy scenarios with grace and melody. McCuen’s whispery delivery draws comparisons to something within the vein of Right Away, Great Captain (the solo material of Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull), or even the haunting coo of Sufjan Stevens. This style of vocal delivery lends itself to the poignancy of McCuen’s subject matter, and strengthens the album’s cohesion overall.
Album highlights include the strolling acoustic waltz of “Love Lost No. 1,” “Twenty-Three (Feels the Same as Nineteen),” album closer and an intimate ode to depression / feelings of futility, and “Whiskey,” in which McCuen dials the tempo up a bit. As an acoustic folk album, Songs of Fleeting Permanence listens beautifully, between the eclectic instrumentation (pepperings of cello, mandolin, banjo, piano, and bells can be found in many of the tracks), weight and relatability of the lyrics, and surprisingly clean and balanced mix (the whole album was recorded in a bedroom).
Keep your ear to the ground for volumes two and three, until then check out “Twenty Three (Feels the Same as Nineteen)” below and be sure to visit Ian McCuen’s bandcamp page for digital downloads of the album in full.