Over the span of two albums and an EP, you can actually watch Martin Devaney grow up. On the EP “Whatever That Is,” Devaney sounds as wide-eyed and anxious as a 3rd grader during show-and-tell. His first full length album, “Somebody Somewhere,” feels like a cross-country road trip: There are catchy melodies inspiring you to drum the steering wheel as you drive, and intospective tunes only a lonely highway could induce.
On his latest album, “September,” the artist takes even greater risks by uncovering a deep hopelessness not apparent on previous efforts. Right from the beginning, “Impressions” sheds some of the baby fat softening Devaney’s previous work. Thanks to a sultry Latin-jazz vibe, the musician sounds more like Humphrey Bogart surrounded by swirls of cigarette smoke than the boy next door. Lyrics like “Let’s not beat around the bush / Let’s not cut to the chase / Let’s put all of the clichés in their place” add a wittiness to his new, not-so-sweet image.
“Nobody’s Saint” demonstrates the musician’s heart-jabbing lyrics when Devaney’s desperate voice sighs, “Oh dear, the next time you sit next to me / I fear I will know no restraint.” The large doses of melancholy can be overwhelming at times, but for the most part the album resembles straight black coffee – it’s bitter and it’s certainly not the greatest tasting liquid around; nevertheless, it’s often the only thing that will get you through the day.
Thankfully, not all the delightfulness found in earlier songs such as “Landlord’s Daughter” has disappeared. While more somberness seeps through on this album, wispy guitar strumming and gentle vocals provide a fine balance preventing it from weighing the listener down.
By the time you reach the last song, the orchestrated epic “Wish Me Luck (Mockingbird),” an amazing thing happens – you truly feel better and ready to return to the world. In the end, Martin Devaney’s stab at a darker, more downhearted album is successful. “September” is far from a cheery listen, but you will find there are times when it is the only thing you can hear.