Released: 16th April
Label: Lost Toy Records
It seems that this is the year to take notice of singer-songwriter Johnny Parry. The founder of Lost Toy Records, music producer, teacher, arranger and a form solo artist has never been given the recognition he deserves for the amount of work he has put in to the music industry, but now with an army of a 30-piece orchestra behind him, it’s almost impossible to just ignore what is now known as Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra.
Now solidified with a band name, Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra will be releasing debut effort Fields and Birds and Things on Monday. It’s a project that on paper already sounds ambitious, how do you manage to capture the atmosphere of over thirty different musicians at once? Well fortunately Johnny Parry has captured it perfectly, and the ambition has certainly paid off as it’s definitely an album you need to check out.
The single Keep Kicking and Screaming opens the album with a soft introduction of the orchestra, with a mixture of violins and what I can only guess is a xylophone, creating a sweet section and a nice contrast against the raspy vocals of Johnny Parry. It’s the perfect opener for Fields and Birds and Things because of the way it manages to ease the listener to the centre of the orchestra; horns and drums manage to introduce themselves without interrupting or disrupting the flow of the foundation already set, and it’s pulled off effortlessly and brilliantly.
It’s almost chamber pop-esque because of how catchy the instrumental becomes, which is intriguing because of the lyrical content. Its dark humour mixed with the dark subjects of love and death, and with Parry’s vocals it sounds as if it would take some difficulty for the listener to really get their teeth into it, and yet it just works. I think the only other example of music sounding poppy despite the lyrical subject was Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.
Following on is Lie In A Hole, a short 2 minute piece that is mainly composed of a haunting deep maudlin brass and organ section paired with a sampled story of a man at sea. What I love most about this track is how military the instrumentation sounds at the point the words "when you get seasick, at first you're afraid you're gonna die, then you're afraid you're not gonna die." Are spoken, and how that’s ended with raucous laughter from the crowd. It’s a great way to tie together how the subject of death is spoken about on this album, how death can be just one thought, and how it can also be perceived as the ending of one life, but also how it can be a laughing matter.
Little Prayer No.14 sees Parry’s vocals contrast against another male’s high pitched vocals, before being accompanied by a fun, bouncy horn section. The track soon explodes into this soundscape of horns and vocals, creating one of the happier moments of Fields and Birds and Things. It’s a nice change of atmosphere after the haunting first half of the album, and it creates a nice soundtrack to the subject of life.
Fields and Birds and Things is a fantastic listen. It might take a little while to truly get into it, but I can only say that you must persevere, give it a few more listens and soon you will see that even with the subjects behind these songs, it’s not overbearing at all. It’s ambition that has produced a stunning piece of work.