Gabriel Kahane – Where Are the Arms

12 04 2012

I had never heard of Gabriel Kahane, until I saw mention of his song Charming Disease by one of my favourite singer-songwriters, the mighty Gavin Castleton. And what a track this it turned out to be!

Lyrically, it’s a sad tale of fighting alcoholism, set to music containing delicious aching strings, guitar and piano, and reminding me a little of Leeds artist Lone Wolf.

Listen to a stream of Charming Disease from the Gabriel Kahane bandcamp page below.

“You were sneaking out with little lies, in the morning by the market, for a good time
You tried to hide it by the lemon trees, I took you home and took away your keys.”

Merritt Pkwy is the tale of a chance meeting and a relationship that ends as quickly as it starts. The song could well be a continuation of the story from the previous track.  The tracks are even linked by a string section that could be acting as a bridge between the two lyrics.

“And I say now what I said then 
please let me forget you 
In some hot one gas station town 
please let me forget you”

There are shades of Sufjan Stevens and Rufus Wainwright in Kahane’s music, and although he comes from a classical background, this album is a mixture of pop and indie. It’s true there are shifting time signatures, string sections and theatrical touches, but the album will appeal to those who like intelligent pop music. Nothing is throwaway, every note is carefully considered and exists for a reason.

The track LA opens with a picked guitar refrain, typical of many signer-songwriters, but is uniquely under-pinned by a baroque piano-part.

“LA
The selfish city wins again.”

Watch the video for LA below

Last Dance is a heart-wrenching song of loss and regret. Regret for the words that were not spoken, the final experiences that could not be shared, and the aching desire to share a lover’s touch one last time.

“all I want is a face to hold
and love and light and sex
and cigarettes”

Icebox name-checks New York land-marks that don’t quite resonate with a South-east London boy like me, but the imagery paints a picture of travelling through cities and people watching that is universal.

Winter Song has some wonderful double-bass and electric piano in the middle section of the song, recalling early 70’s John Martyn, and is topped off by a lovely flute arrangement.

“scratching out a past
we don’t remember much
words come apart like
tendon shattered bone”

Where Are The Arms is an ambitious album, covering several genres, often within individual songs, and stands up to repeated listening. Each song is a portrait, with common themes such as regret, isolation and missed connections (Merritt Pkwy is a prime example).

Watch the Charming Disease video

Buy Where Are The Arms from Amazon

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