If there’s an intended message that North-Carolina singer/songwriter Michael McFarland wants to impart with his latest release, A Failed Breakup, it’s that, “…some stories are not meant to end.” To compound the impact, he crafted an album that you, as a listener, won’t want to end either.
There is no more fertile soil for artistic inspiration than that contained in the craggy fields of interpersonal relationships. The art forms of cinema, literature and music are always teeming with tales of tempestuous romance; what keeps the game afoot is the variety of colors, shades and situations provided by the individuals creating art around the concept. The cause is certainly greatly aided by Mr. McFarland’s efforts in that regard on this release.
Michael’s material is earnest, often introspective and always emotive- skillfully displaying the array of moods that accompany parting ways with a paramour. From quiet moments of melancholy, to frothing frustration with circumstance and further on to a rekindled sense of hope, this record beautifully unfurls the emotional spectrum both musically and lyrically.
“Sit and Wait,” the album’s opening track (and debut single, whose video we were blessed enough to debut HERE on AmpKicker), is playfully agoraphobic while railing against a plaintive attempt to cope with a newly borne sense of isolation. The video helps to further imbue the song with a lighthearted air, but much of Michael’s writing on the record maintains a prevailing sense of optimism. Needless to say, this is certainly a refreshing contrast from the standard sobbing despondency of most breakup songs.
“Stay,” the record’s second stop, is a jubilant tune that combines the staccato strumming style of Paul Simon with the melodic sensibility of Jason Mraz to craft a wonderfully upbeat folk-pop song. “Remember Me,” follows as an excellent contrast, with a more mournful and melodic tone that helps to engender a sense of loss on the record. “A Failed Breakup,” comes on like a Decemberists’ tune, without the murder or rancor of, “The Rake’s Song.” As the album’s titular track, you’d imagine it would encapsulate the record’s theme as a whole, but McFarland’s work is far too eclectic for such easy summation.
The disc ends much as Michael’s live shows do, with the song, “Lighthouse.” It is easily my favorite of his tunes, as it builds in complexity and concept as it evolves- much like a work by David Gray. Ascendant, shimmering acoustic strums meld with ever-expanding vocal harmonies to lend a buoyant, enduring quality to the song, its emotion… and furthermore, the album itself. The idea of being a beacon of strength, warmth and idealized love is as radiant as the songs’ namesake, and McFarland tethers the gossamer strands of the concepts to your mind like a Disney Fairy Godmother. The song ends with a string of melodic “ohs” that emotionally implore the audience to sing along as much as McFarland himself literally does at his shows. It leaves a wonderful feeling of resonance that endures long after the song, album or show are complete.
If you’re unacquainted with Michael’s material, this is a wonderful introduction to his style that is florid in both concept and execution. The lyrics are lush and poetic, often boldly leaping out of the composition to ensnare your complete attention. His voice is soothing and melodic, and is perfectly accompanied by the chosen acoustic instrumentation (with a slightly Celtic feel in places, which I heartily approve of).
Folk fans will be well-served by giving this disc a listen- and with every new pair of ears it finds the story will endure… as Michael intended.