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Published On: Mon, May 5th, 2014

Withered Hand: New Gods

withered handWithered Hand
New Gods
(Slumberland Records)

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The name Withered Hand may bring up mental images of witch’s spells or bad omens, but Scottish musician Dan Willson’s style is anything but dark. New Gods, his second record, is a smart, sharp combination of folk influence and pop rock sensibility. Guest appearances from the forefront of the Scottish music scene include members of Frightened Rabbit, Belle & Sebastian, and The Vaselines, but New Gods shows that Willson has earned his place with such talented peers.

“Love Over Desire” has a catchy, simple chorus, but the verses sink into the struggle of relationship and obligation. “King of Hollywood” is an upbeat depiction of a night out on the town, which juxtaposes nicely with “California,” the quiet aftermath. “Between Love and Ruin” contains some of Willson’s sharpest lyrics. “I was thinking of sex, and you were dreaming of freedom,” he admits, though he goes on to state that he wanted to clear away the unnamed woman’s tears “but my picket fence heart, it kept me here in my place.”

While all of New Gods goes down easily, the end refuses to let the listener become complacent. “Heart Heart” starts out quietly but soon shakes off any misconceptions with shouted lyrics, frantic drums, and enthusiastic piano. There’s an energetic, live performance feeling that makes the defeatist lyrics sound triumphant. This gives way to the quiet “Not Alone,” which shows off the skillful folk that marks much Scottish music. Not one to be pinned down, Withered Hand’s album ends on chanted vocals and spectacular brass. New Gods is a fascinating, beautiful album deserving of many listens to take in all the lyrics.

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Withered Hand: New Gods