Before the play button has even been pressed, Fireplace, the debut LP from The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, has already sparked intrigue. When such polar opposites exist between the epic, myth-like connotations of the band name and the cosy domesticity of the album title, you begin to wonder what on earth is about to emerge from your speakers! Such speculation is not helped in the slightest on discovering that the 'band' is in fact just one man; Colin Macleod grew up on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides and claims to have been a singer in several thrash-punk bands before arriving at his advertised brand of acoustic folk rock and moving to London to pursue his singer/songwriter career full-time. It would appear the move is truly beginning to pay off with a record deal with Polydor and a number of summer festival slots now confirmed, in addition to forthcoming support slots with KT Tunstall and Fyfe Dangerfield.
As the play button is finally released, a swathe of beach sounds gives way to the nostalgia-coated opener 'Golden' in which a gently pulsating bass-line provides a fitting bed to Macleod's hints of post-love bitterness: 'Would you believe me if I said I was happy'. As pleasant as this is, it comes as something of a relief when fears of an overly melancholic album are blown clean out of the water by the upbeat single 'Katy' where we're thankfully thrown into the present tense and the anxieties of young romance with the repeated refrain 'Don't say you love me/Don't be too hasty/'Cause if you do I'm running out the door'. The following title-track doesn't let this pace slip with acoustic guitar and no-nonsense brushed drums flowing beneath Colin's well judged vocal harmonies and endearing finishing touches from piano and accordion.
The entire record should be credited for its well-judged arrangements, with everything but strings and female backing vocals contributed by Macleod himself. In addition to his accomplished performance on his core instruments (acoustic guitar, drums and basses of both the acoustic and double variety) he elegantly proves himself worthy on the piano in songs such as 'Walking In The Dark' and 'Antique Cobweb', and his subtle employment of slide guitar in 'I See You', a track charting attempts to move on in the wake of a failed relationship, successfully adds atmosphere without inducing novelty value.
You'd be forgiven for spotting a theme in the subject matter here, for by the artist's own admission the album often revolves around ex-girlfriends. Such a gravitation is certainly in-keeping with the retrospective sensibilities of Macleod's musical style and it often yields some lyrical gems: 'And all I want to do is sing songs I never wrote and show you things I've never seen'. However, the danger of this is that at times it can simply come across as being a little too autobiographical; sometimes this listener felt like he was sitting in on a confessional and by the end of the record was almost dying to hear the other sides of the story, so biased did Fireplace's account seem. Nevertheless, it's a tactic that is nothing short of engaging, whether in a satisfying way or not.
Musically speaking, Macleod certainly seems to have cultivated a The Boy Who Trapped The Sun 'sound', one revolving primarily around the folk rock world, as publicised. It's an orbit that he rarely interrupts, exceptions being the substantial psychedelia and roots influences of the attitude-heavy 'Home' and Duke Special derived vaudeville pop of 'Dreaming Like A Fool'. While Fireplace seldom drops below par (if you discount the fact that the repeated refrain of 'Telescope' sounds off-puttingly like 'Tesco') a criticism that some might level at the album is the lack of variation between songs, particularly when it occasionally reaches the point that making an immediate distinction between individual tracks becomes difficult. However, by the same token you could argue that this works in Macleod's favour; Fireplace is a fine collection of well-crafted chips from the same stylistic block, each distinct thanks to subtle but expertly deployed musical touches. This album takes your mood, sits it down, hands it a cup of tea and stops it from swinging for the best part of an hour, a praise-worthy achievement in itself.