Uncle Luc – ‘Simple Songs for Today’ mini-album review

Artwork: Nicholas Stevenson

With a mantra of ‘Minimal takes, minimal instruments, simple songs’, Uncle Luc’s surprise mini-album was recorded in lockdown after discovering the 1960s and ’70s recording equipment in his parents’ Surrey house still worked. All of the songs on this new record centre around an old Revox 2 track tape machine, a trusty 1965 Gibson LG-0 acoustic and a ’70s Fender Rhodes piano. Luke Barham (Uncle Luc) says: ‘The concept of the album was to trap the songs as soon as they were written, to not overthink them and not over complicate them with lots of instrument overdubs.’

‘Bedroom’ opens with a reel of the recording tape before Luc starts delivering spoken-word observations about the special memories and moments of his life that have taken place in these four walls – from a broken sofa (‘ugly but cool’) and a Magic Eye poster that wouldn’t stick to the wall to a radio tuned into the Evening Session and a decision to paint his room a garish shade of orange when he was 16 – the latter two recall my mid-teen years. Maybe it’s a Barham thing… There’s also some sadness as Luc recalls the death of a first pet soundtracked to Sixpence None the Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ before discovering passions that will last throughout his life: ‘When it came to art, I’d put on a record and blissfully disappear into my drawings’. The short and sweet ‘New Condition’ finds Uncle Luc in more familiar sun-kissed Beach Boys territory as he sings about everyone moving at different speeds. ‘Lullaby for the Lonely’ follows and this dose of nostalgic Americana has a confessional singer-songwriter tone with layers of vocals spliced together: ‘Again, I’ve failed to say how I felt today because lately I don’t know myself’.

Super Fan 99 Records · Uncle Luc ‘Lullaby For The Lonely’

‘Another Free Buffet’ takes a look at how fragile some egos are and how important it is to feel comfortable within yourself: ‘Who you were and who you are now. You’re still that kid raised in a small town. We all need a reminder sometimes’. There are elements of Evan Dando’s solo sound in it and also a cheeky sense of humour, especially in its opening line: ‘I’m getting used to these lunches, no more golden arches’. ‘Chef De Groupe’ takes a look at when things don’t go to plan (‘I wanted to be seen but my voice was drifting out to sea’; ‘I was taking daily risks like I took out trash’) before the penultimate ‘Beach’ heads into a more ambient zone with field recordings of families playing at the seaside and the tide coming in. The closing ‘We Don’t Have to Leave’ finds Luc talking about the places he’s lived and how even though he’s now settled down in Stepney Green, he still misses the buzz of Brixton. Although it opens sounding like something similar to an early Noel-fronted Oasis B-side (‘Although we don’t have to leave, the real world keeps calling out for me, so take me back home where it’s monochrome’), a recording of an airport tannoy announcement signals a change into another spoken-word piece about travelling that backs up the previous statement: ‘It’s not where you’re from, it’s who you are’.

Stripped back, soulful and superb, ‘Simple Songs for Today’ is a personal soundtrack for these modern times where we’ve all had the chance to pause and look back.

 

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