Review: Devon Welsh – True Love
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Devon Welsh = Majical Cloudz + Michael Stipe + Soap&Skin
Only a year after the release of his debut solo album Dream Songs, Devon Welsh (formerly of Majical Cloudz) has returned with another collection of beautiful, reflective songs that doesn’t stray too far from his previous output but never feels corroded by stagnation.
True Love mostly returns to the electronic aesthetic of Majical Cloudz, but the vestiges of Welsh’s work with Austin Tufts (Braids) and the organic instrumentation of Dream Songs appear throughout the album, on tracks like “Grace,” a campfire-ready folk ballad built around a steady guitar strum and the soft, airy “Songbird” that again allows a gentle guitar line to lead the song forward. Welsh’s songwriting has always focused on a subtle, dreamy atmosphere, with major dynamic shifts in his music coming from his vocal performance—True Love keeps true to this premise, with most of the songs building slowly or even just ruminating in the space given by the instrumentals.
This leisurely pace is typical of Welsh’s work and is a songwriting tool he has often utilized to make effortlessly dazzling music throughout the years. But on True Love, the already slow pace of the album becomes even a little slower during its middle third, and listeners not entirely committed to Welsh’s quiet, drawn-out style of songwriting might find themselves a little tired out by tracks like “Alongside,” “True Love” and “Songbird.” They may be a bit too dreamy even for their own good, but those used to Welsh’s work won’t find the speed all that off-putting. It’s vital to remember that True Love, like all of Welsh’s music, is best when listeners allow the instrumentals to cradle them into a meditative state and focus closely on the immense vocal performances.
Welsh’s voice lifts up his poetry, which makes the lyrical content of his records a factor impossible to ignore. Much like on Dream Songs, the subject of Welsh’s lyrics on True Love can be found in the album title. Throughout the album’s ten tracks, listeners explore the many facets of love. Classic masculinity and self-love are tackled on the arresting opener, “Uniform.” On “Faces,” Welsh sings through the harsh realization of bad timing and reluctant goodbyes. There is often a slightly melancholic tinge to Welsh’s songs as he attempts to confront the anxieties and the sadder realities of love; however, even when things don’t always work out, there is a turn towards positivity and hope on True Love. In the chorus of “System,” Welsh sings, “Cause I will always love you and all the ways you’ve made me who I am,” and the song “Dreamers” sends off True Love with one of the faster, dancier tracks in Welsh’s entire catalog, solo or with Majical Cloudz—the driving synthesizers and the repetitive affirmations of “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” in the chorus set eyes toward the horizon and on a wistful image of love.
Even with Dream Songs’ moving away from the synthetic, it was an album full of tracks that felt comfortably familiar to the songs Welsh released previously.d True Love takes a step back toward the sonic palette of Majical Cloudz and the architecture of the songs remain distinctly a product of Welsh’s creative mind. Those waiting for Devon Welsh to make an album that sounds unlike anything he’s ever made will have to keep waiting—True Love doesn’t drastically shift Welsh’s trajectory as an artist, but that isn’t such a bad thing, especially when it feels as though Welsh has gotten his aesthetic down to a science. The moody, immersive and ethereal sonic landscapes serve as a vessel for Welsh’s astonishing vocals and poetic expression, and the result is with True Love as with all of his other releases: dark, dreamy, emotionally affecting and undeniably gorgeous. –Evan Welsh