leganeMarcel Legane’s second release has a striking clarity; his well-crafted songs are given a great boost by crisp production. The solid drum sound and sharp guitars lend themselves well to his brand of radio-friendly brand of emo influenced pop-rock. We’re not talking instant gratification though; Legane’s song writing style is one where those great moments only really present themselves after two or three listens…but once you’ve familiarised yourself with his sound, it’s obvious he’s a man who knows how to mix occasionally quirky arrangements with memorable hooks.

The opening number ‘Heart Receding’ has a sound which captures the listener’s attention from the start thanks to a great drum sound courtesy of Ollie Waton. There’s great interplay between his spiky drum pattern and Ross Chapman’s ringing guitar chords, which are both under pinned by a semi-busy bass line from Adam Double. Legane’s vocals have elements of softness throughout the verses, but as the choruses kick in, his voice sounds strong. There’s a small amount of auto-tune at play (as a stylistic choice, I think), but the track didn’t really need it – I’m sure Legane’s natural delivery would have shone through. The second number builds on the strengths of the opener; Legane sounds more confident delivering an extremely tuneful vocal line over slightly quirky pop-rock. The musical high points here come courtesy of another busy bass line and new wave inspired keyboards.

‘Superior/Inferior’ is this release’s absolutely essential track. Waton delivers a playful drum part which has a very percussive style. The verses are built around sparse rhythmic qualities, but for the pre-chorus and louder sections, his pounding drum style echoing the lyrics “don’t cast my dream aside/the sound of your judgement pounding out”. Legane’s vocal range isn’t especially broad, but his style is well suited to the musical style. The simplicity of the vocal line is at odds with the relative complexity of the drum part, but the result is one which seems effective. It’s a track which stands up to many repeated listens.

After a strong intro dominated by Waton’s drums, ‘Games’ becomes a little sickly, as Legane launches into a tune which sounds a little too boy-band, but that alone may have been okay (as far as these things go), but the whole of the opening verse is drenched in auto-tune. If you imagine the kind of auto-tune Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump has to help him with those long notes, only slapped across absolutely everything and you’ll get the picture. It’s a couple of notches short of the inhuman qualities explored by Cher on ‘Believe’ (and utilised on countless hideous pieces of r ‘n’ b), but it still has an unnecessary inhuman quality. As the music progresses, things don’t seem so bad, particularly on the slightly rockier moments, but even so, the over commercial edges of this number don’t capture Legane at his best. ‘Friendly Fire’ closes the release with something mellow. Legane’s performance is okay (substantially less auto-tune than before) and it’s more of a slow-burner than the first couple of tracks, but Ross Chapman and Ollie Waton shine throughout – particularly Chapman’s crystal clear guiltar lines.

Compared to his previous release (2010’s ‘Battle EP’), Legane has improved greatly as both a song writer and arranger. In becoming far surer of the sound he wants to achieve, on this EP he finds himself in a position to enlist better musicians – and this alone ensures ‘Heart Life’ offers a decent listening experience, even despite those auto-tuned elements.

March 2010