And so another Irish singer-songwriter announces himself on the scene. No such troubadour in the typical sense given his ventures in to theatre, Dylan Tighe has also contended with mental illness since 2004. It’s these travails that inspire the material on his first LP. Record may have been brewing for several years, but the Dubliner has stated that his ten ruminations on life through the prism of mental health emerged almost fully formed in response to treatments. As an element of a wider project (Record follows a theatre show and series of talks), Tighe’s assured debut chronicles his own expriences to promote an enhanced understanding of mental health.
Tighe’s is a stark voice that sounds somewhere (in terms of Irish contemporaries) between Richie Egan and Conor O’Brien, with the album measured, stripped back and brimming with experimental atmospherics. Opening track ‘Lamotrigine’, named for a bipolar disorder medication, encapsulates the mission statement: by voicing discontent with conventional psychiatric services, Tighe affirms the arts as therapeutic alternative.
The brash blend of hammond organs, stylophone and synths is tempered by startlingly candid lyrics, while some cacophonous moments hint at Tighe’s mental turmoil. ‘Microscope’’s intense urgency, propelled by a stabbing electro pulse, lends Record a menacing shot in the arm to carry it through its second chapter. Echoes of Radiohead are detectable within the ebb and flow of ‘Hades’, while the airy detachment of ‘The Ghost’ recalls the xx.
Record is warmly satisfying when Tighe operates less experimentally. The impassioned ‘Opus’ sways with sultry guitar and drum brushes, marrying melody and introspection to filter a chink of light through tales of personal darkness. Though less accessible, ‘Emergency’ finds Dylan Tighe at his most earnest. The tone is melancholy but never bleak as he puts lyrics to the fore; “how is this the answer for / years of wounds and open sores / made to feel an imbecile / with no insight to how I feel”. Record is at times a draining listen, and while numerous variations on a theme generate diminishing returns, the sense of purpose is admirable.
Tighe has delivered a frank and concise debut, a gradually unfolding slow-burner informed by the work of Nick Drake and Daniel Johnston. Confessional vocals subject his intimate tunes to scrutiny, but also allow time and space to evoke a fragility fitting of the theme. What emerges is a challenging yet positive piece, an album trim in spite of its lengthy gestation. Dylan Tighe is resolute in his craft; it will be intriguing to follow his next move.