The Summer Is Empty Of Idiots by The Pictish Trail (EP)
Johnny ‘Pictish Trail’ Lynch divorces Bright Eyes from their inherent sadness and instils his music with the jauntiness of Eels
ot so long ago here on Songwriting, we reviewed a rather fine Orkney concept album from the brilliant Magnetic North. The equally wonderful The Pictish Trail may not have gone fully down the ‘concept’ route with the The Summer Is Empty Of Idiots EP, but the influence of Scottish islands is once again prominent.
The Pictish Trail is the songwriting vehicle of Johnny Lynch, who also runs the excellent Fence Records label. The creation of The Summer Is Empty Of Idiots saw Lynch relocating to the Hebridean isle of Egg, locking himself away in a caravan and committing himself to songwriting. One might expect such surroundings to have led to a recording marked by its introversion, perhaps even morbidity. The results, however, are rather different.
Though it’s become extraordinarily unfashionable to draw comparison to Mancunian songwriter Damon Gough, AKA Badly Drawn Boy – especially in the aftermath of his American meltdown at the hallowed Troubador – he has written some sublime songs. There are moments in this recording when Lynch takes the finest qualities of Gough’s songwriting and melds them with the most exquisite melodies to have melted from the guitar of Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst. But Lynch isn’t weighed down by the darkness of Oberst’s work. This is particularly evident on the EP’s third track Not To Be, which replaces the frosty melancholia found in Bright Eyes with the jaunty sentiment of Eels.
A sense of wonderment is also evident in Lynch’s songwriting, with the dreamy, floaty effects used in recent single Michael Rocket gripping the listener with ethereal fingers and carrying them through the song. The Super Brass Brothers’ redux, electronic remix version of Michael Rocket also demonstrates The Pictish Trail’s desire to challenge and not be weighed down by being restricted to using guitars alone.
The Pictish Trail release the album Secret Soundz Vol 2 later this year. If The Summer Is Empty Of Idiots is anything to go by then it’s going to be a fine collection of songs.
Verdict: A dreamy collection of acoustic-based guitar pop