tue 09/08/2022

Album: Ted Barnes - 17 Postcards | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Ted Barnes - 17 Postcards

Album: Ted Barnes - 17 Postcards

Devastating bulletins from a world where craft and care matter above all else

Ted Barnes is an outsider by design. Not in the sense of being wilfully awkward or outré – the music on his first solo album in almost 13 years years is gentle, harmonically rich, extremely accessible – but in that he has sidestepped standard career paths, and seems to be all the better for it.

As guitarist for Beth Orton for a decade and member of the band Clayhill, he certainly had more than a glimpse of what music industry life entailed, hard touring included, but he chose to get off the treadmill and focus on composing for films, music libraries and acrobatics shows. 

And his music is very much that of a craftsman, not a performer. Even more than on 2008’s Portal Nou, this music takes its time, revels in every sound, enjoys being in the moment, far more than it cares about delivering hooks. Yet those hooks are there. Barnes writes a melody like Doves, Elbow or even Coldplay at their most widescreen, but it’s never wasted on the obvious payoff, always held back and delivered with elegant understatement, not delivering emotional fireworks but leaving you reeling nonetheless. Meanwhile recording of every tambourine tinkle, every scrape of a bow across a cello string, every piano chord is done with as much love and care as the composition itself.

The effect is completely enveloping, like walking into someone else’s dream. The album is mostly instrumental, yet every track feels as much of a song as do the ones featuring the vocals of Barnes, Sarah Johns, Kristin McClement and Michael Clark (son of Barnes’s late Clayhill bandmate Gavin Clark). You can hear folk, cabaret, Americana, all sorts – but the truly brilliant thing about this record is that these aren’t references: like all the recording and musical technique, they are just tools for world building. It’s a rare record that builds a world and lets you step in, a rarer one still that builds one so complete and consistent that each time you go into it you want to look around and just appreciate its spaces. Ted Barnes might be an outsider, but he’s inviting you in.


Listen to "Way Beyond This"

Barnes writes a melody like Doves, Elbow or even Coldplay at their most widescreen, but it’s never wasted on the obvious payoff


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters