The title ‘Odludek’ is Polish for ‘loner’ – a not-so-subtle indicator of Goodwin’s intentions to separate himself from Doves’ more conventional indie-rock sound on this, his first solo record.
Although there are some superficial similarities that fans of the trio will enjoy opening track ‘Terracota Warrior’ uses jarring chords, brass and low synth to establish the album as something different from the outset.
This loud introduction, with lyrics touching on metaphysical and natural forces, is contrasted by ‘Didsbury Girl’, a more personal tale of lost love in a Mancunian suburb with a much more sentimental melody. With its funky bass-line opening and melancholy and beguiling chorus that is lifted by some fantastic guitar work it is one of the strongest tracks on the album.
Bafflingly, we are then taken and knocked about by the lush, electronic madness that is ‘Live Like a River’, briefly uplifted by the orchestral gospel harmonies of ‘Hope’ and then chewed up and spat out by the horn-driven war machine that is ‘Man Vs Dingo’. The first five tracks initially appear to exist detached from any sense or pattern, yet on closer inspection they give the impression of alternating between the abstract and the personal, the abrasive and the gentle, the wild and the cultivated.
The second half of the album is a slightly more ordered, conventional affair and begins with a minor blip; ‘Keep My Soul In Song’ is a smooth, layered ballad, endearing at first but does not carry itself and sadly gets a little tiring. Without pause Goodwin redeems himself instantly with first single ‘Oh! Whiskey’. This is an honest and warm little conception that tells the story of a man’s struggle with the bottle. It starts out with the beautiful duality of acoustic guitar and harmonica and marches drunkenly towards something with more of a kick. It is accessible and charming, but works more as a single than as a representation of the album as a whole.
‘The Ghost of the Empties’ is full of dreamy, elevating off-beat piano that touches on something close to the Doves sound when it picks up to a guitar solo. This familiarity continues on to the groovy, indie-rock defiance of ‘Lonely At The Drop’. The album closes with ‘Panic Tree’, a folky tale of father-son relationships all broken and entangled (literally). It has a certain childlike, nursery-rhyme quality that is an amusing antithesis to the bitter lyrical content.
Elbow frontman and Goodwin’s long time friend Guy Garvey features as a collaborative writer on a handful of songs. This is particularly apparent on ‘Hope’, but there is a certain Elbow-ish quality that echoes throughout the record, and obvious comparisons could be made with Garvey’s and Goodwin’s vocal style. This record’s tendency to skip around genres with scant regard for any reasonable direction could draw criticism for creating something confused, lost or ambiguous. Goodwin himself described the debut as a “mad mixtape”, but the quality of what he has produced manages to outshine any sense of bewilderment.
His commitment to the inclusion of countless instruments (most of which he plays himself) reflects the core of an artist with a genuine love and appreciation for music in innumerable forms.
‘Odludek’ is by no means a perfect album, but it has true charm and is worth investigating whether you’re a dedicated Doves-lover looking for a little change or just curious about its prevailing eccentricity.