Review Summary: Everybody's in on the joke.
One of the most disingenuous terms commonly used to praise music and artists is 'effortless.' Somewhere along the line, it became an unequivocally good thing for an artist not to really be trying. Worse still, it became a negative trait to sound
like you were trying. There are moments on Everything Is True
when Paul Dempsey's voice strains with the weight of anger or frustration to the point that it makes you uncomfortable, and though Everything Is True
is not through a wider lens a harsh album, it is these moments of unbridled personal connection which set the Something For Kate frontman's debut record above its apparent peers.
That's not to say that Everything Is True
is sub-par on the musical front - absolutely not - simply that Dempsey's presence as a lyricist eclipses the folk-rock background to his words, and that is enormous praise considering the intricate and warm melodies that flow from guitars and pianos throughout. And neither is dispensable; 'Ramona Was A Waitress' is nothing without its smoky rumbling rhythm, is nothing without its perfect refrain of, "I don't need these arms anymore. I don't need this heart now to love. I don't need this skin and bone at all."
Each song is substantially more than the sum of its parts.
Those parts play off each other, too, in rewarding fashion. Dempsey is clearly a thoughtful songwriter, not a calculated one by any means, but a man capable of injecting layers and degrees of irony and cynicism into his songs; it's there in the way he sounds so resigned on 'Fast Friends' as he laments that he "know[s] no quicker way, dear, to the shiny gates of hell, than a room full of handsome devils comparing everything to everything else."
And in that line is the secret, also, to Everything Is True
's lasting value: its, and Dempsey's, ability to deliver and express slightly-buried sentiments with slightly-obscure images.
according to Dempsey, "only a freak would sing in a crowded waiting room."
This fascination with the tentative and grey areas between love and hate drives Everything Is True
in all of its uncertain ponderings to align itself with the urge to scream along to the very same sentiments that he's expressing. He's a master of the difficult confession, the uneasy truth, and his first solo full-length showcases that talent through eleven incredibly endearing songs: no tricks, no gimmicks, just Paul Dempsey, his troubled psyche and the instruments you can fit into the backroom of a pub where people go to escape to somewhere easier.