While I was listening to “Outrospection,” the new album by French singer/songwriter Mike Noegraf, I found myself thinking about Chris Isaak. Not because there are any musical similarities. Noegraf doesn’t play blue-hued rockabilly, and he doesn’t have a heavenly falsetto. But much like Isaak, how you feel about this album will depend very much on how you feel about Noegraf’s aesthetic.
He plays country-tinged, intimate folk music that occasionally throws in some gritty electric guitars and percussion for texture. The press release that goes with this album cites Brian Fallon and Ed Sheeran as touchstones, but this music feels more authentic to me; this is “heartfelt” in the best sense of the word.
Noegraf has an ear for strong folk melodies, and his halting, here-goes-nothing vocal delivery is effective; it feels like he’s talking softly directly to you, confessing his doubts and fears.
And this is most definitely an album full of doubts and fears. The opening cut, “Fill Up The Blanks,” puts us right into the thick of things; the first line is “I was only four when you left for good,” and the rest of the song is about how a now-grown man handles his feelings of abandonment while raising his own kids.
“Outrospection” is filled with moments like this. The title track is a heartbreaking remembrance of a lost love, with lines like “You’re still here everytime I close my eyes/And your laugh is still rocking me at night” standing out. “Life Is A Trial” is self-explanatory, as is “Unconditional Love.” There are poetic lyrics on the album, but you always know what Noegraf is talking about.
The issue is that, over 13 tracks, the songs start to bleed into one another; things start to sound the same. As strong as they are melodically, Noegraf has found his approach and sticks to it, blending acoustic guitar with subtle electric embellishments and shining the spotlight on his tentative, hushed vocals.
If you enjoy that sound, you’ll probably enjoy the whole album; if you’re looking for a wider palette of sounds, “Outrospection” wears out its welcome after a while. -Vincent Harris