Myles McCormack - To Better All Things
Writing impactful songs with a delicate touch, Myles McCormack's music is influenced by everything from historical ballads to Hawkwind. Based in Belfast, his playing has been honed through the traditional music scene, sharing sessions with many different artists around Ireland. At the same time, Myles has gathered a cache of original material, showcased in an impressive debut album, Real Talk (2019) and a string of increasingly strong releases. At the opening of 2022 he was confirmed as the first ever Artist in Residence for the prestigious Out To Lunch festival in the city.
His second album To Better all Things features 10 carefully crafted songs which are in equal parts philosophical, playful, introspective and moving. It features re-worked versions of previously released singles ‘Comfort Zone’ and ‘The River Rises’, as well as the especially poignant, ‘One Day’. New songs ‘Thing Of The Earth’ and ‘Every Time’ explore romantic themes with maturity and lyrical precision, while tracks such as ‘Julie’ and ‘Back To The Stream’ are great examples of Myles’ guitar creativity.
Although rarely flashy, there is uniquely beautiful guitar playing on both acoustic and electrics across the record. Sparing use of piano and organ parts add colour and depth while percussion varies from intimate brushes and claps to bodhráns and full drum kits. Rough edges are laid bare and soft touches are favoured over soaring solos. While far from today's pop sounds, the songs are catchy with delightful earworm moments which reward repeat listens.
Comfort Zone features some especially decorative imagery, playing on the transient nature of life while One Day offers a message of hope and togetherness. Thing Of The Earth deals with the nature of belief and ultimately the desire for meaningful connections, and Tiny World is a simple lullaby framed as a conversation between a newborn and parent.Tender, you perceive the love with all your senses while listening to this.
“It’s kind of a concept album. Lyrically it ties together some deeply personal and local issues, such as mental health and political turmoil, as well as broader existential concepts like climate collapse and our own place within the cosmos.
I find myself most moved to write when feeling overwhelmed or faced with a situation I feel unable to solve. Writing and playing songs is a great way way of processing those thoughts. So although they’re often inspired by specific experiences, I hope that people will form their own interpretations”.
“The title track, To Better All Things, was based upon my own frustration at education system here. Those failings which frustrated me years ago unfortunately continue to this day, though the song has taken on new meanings for me. So in terms of the album as a whole, the title represents all of our individual aspirations to improve, both personally and as a society.
Musically I try to remember all my favorite influences when I’m writing, so the songs are varied in style but predominantly built around finger-picked guitar, in a variety of tunings. I especially love artists like Joanna Newsom or Richard Dawson, who both are incredibly decorative lyricists and wildly creative composers.
Before I began playing traditional music I was really into prog-rock and metal (anything from Pink Floyd to Pantera). But for the last decade or so I’ve been involved in the trad scene and so have been mostly playing acoustically. Writing this album I found myself drawn back to the electric guitar for the first time in many years so maybe some of those old influences are beginning to take hold again”.
If there is one track illustrating McCormack's trad music involvement, it would be One Day. In contrast, Every Time is hauntigly quiet ballad laced with romance that captures the listener from the first note.
Overall, this album is a delicate yet colourful tapestry of life. And, as in life itself, there are moments of calm and intense moments of high energy. Lyrically, this album is not something you listen to in the background. It is deeply evocative. Demands focus. And reflection about what's being said.