Reno McCarthy is a man who keeps his promises. Last month, we reviewed his single ‘Still‘, which promised a lot of good things were to come with the release of his debut album Counterglow. Well, the album has arrived, and Reno has delivered.
Over the course of eleven tracks, McCarthy explores every nook and cranny of his seductive, svelte brand of pop. He sings about love, intimacy, growing up and friendship; and the fear and self-doubt that can tarnish any of those experiences.
A lot of that thematic content introduced on the record’s opening track, ‘Deep Dive‘. It’s an open, honest examination of how uncertainty can actually guide or force certain decisions to be made. The highlight is the moment the instrumentation steps up a notch with an elegant little drum motif – the perfect hinge upon which the tone of the song pivots.
‘Arithmetics‘ sounds like more of an upbeat pop song. The beat is jolly, the melodies warm and lyrical rhythms effortlessly groovy. Beneath that glossy facade though, is a song in which the artist experiences something and cannot let it go, picking it apart to no benefit to himself.
We’ve already covered ‘Still‘ in our recent review, but it’s worth highlighting again just how classy a track it is. Smooth, funky and luscious, it’s definitely a high point of the record.
‘Beating With Love‘ is a more sedate affair where Reno McCarthy focuses in on singular moments of intimacy and the extraordinary sensation of someone’s heart beating close to yours.
That sentiment and sound arises again on ‘Time & Place‘, a tale of desire and missed chances. Its feels personal and close, as if McCarthy were performing it for you and you alone.
‘Wallflowers‘ is a very different beast. The disco influence is more prominent as the first minute or so carefully, crescendos to a joyful chorus.
Similar tones can be heard on the album’s closing track, ‘Forever Ago‘. The chorus is euphoric, counterbalanced only by the bittersweet lyrics which have plenty in common with ‘Time & Place‘ – nostalgia and regret for lost loves. The middle eight is timid and exposed, with McCarthy virtually whispering in your ear, until the music swells one final time to a cathartic guitar solo which carries you home.
Counterglow is a delightful record to listen to. Reno McCarthy is at his best when exploring the extremes of his range – be it during intimate ballads or effortlessly cool pop tracks. There are one or two tracks which don’t quite land – ‘Woman From The Jungle‘ for example feels a little forced – but on the whole it’s clear that McCarthy is an artist who has found his groove and is in his element when bringing others in to it.
Sounds Like… the perfect soundtrack to cocktails on a summer evening.