Joshua Caole’s facebook claims that he likes ‘films with Reese Witherspoon, cheese pizza and heavy metal’. Yet his music bears no signs of his taste for blondes/rom-coms, fast food or head-banging. Instead, his debut album Moon Palace is a folk/rock/country offering, filled with bittersweet recollections of failed love, taking us on an emotional rollercoaster from heady lust through to frustration and doubt. Caole may hail from Wales, but his music is firmly rooted on the other side of the Atlantic. Stick Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes and Elliott Smith in a blender, sprinkle heavily with Americana, toss in a few broken hearts and you might get something like this EP.
These influences are most evident on ‘Sweet Sweet Eyes’ with its jangling guitar lines and steady beat. Caole casts himself as the seducing poet: ‘I told you that I loved you, it was just a lie. It’s the same with every clichÃ© that I ever write’. Yet the rest of his lyrics belie this, revealing a romantic alternately regretting the past and confused about the future.
‘Caught in Two’ shows him hesitating and torn between giving into his desires despite knowing ‘What’s good for me is not for you’. It’s on songs like this and ‘Butterfly’ that Caole shines. Stripped of drums his deft finger-picking comes to the forefront, weaving his smooth voice with mournful harmonica interludes into a melancholy tale of loss.
On ‘Cruel’ Caole’s usually sweet vocals are twisted with anger into a hoarse fragility. Its insistent pace then melts into the more laconic and wistful ‘For the Angels to Sing’. The album’s two piano-led tracks are barely distinguishable from Ryan Adams’s ballads, yet this similarity is to Caole’s credit, more than matching Adams with his hauntingly whispered vocals.
Whilst it’s a shame that Caole hasn’t yet managed to marry Legally Blonde with heavy metal, Moon Palace is a promising debut and more than justifies a trip to catch him supporting Christiaan Webb at the Jericho Tavern on April 14th.Â