With his band on hiatus, now was the perfect time for Travis front man Fran Healy to record that inevitable "debut solo album". And you should be glad he did because here we have another of 2010's best in "Wreckorder". It would be seemingly impossible for fans of Travis to not like Healy's solo work, but the good news here is this is not just another Travis album without their name attached to it. Healy makes sure to explore enough new ideas to differentiate "Wreckorder" from his band's material.
That is not to say there is nothing here that sounds like the new Travis single. "Holiday" is that mid-tempo ballad complete with a banjo led chorus that could have been a nice follow-up to "Sing". The acoustic guitar driven "Buttercups" has the type of richly melodic chorus that Healy has made his calling card with his band.
There is a relaxing moodiness to a lot of this material that separates it from Travis. Opener "In The Morning" starts with just a piano line and Healy's voice before strings, drums and bass join in, giving off just enough of an air of tension to contradict the sweet sounds at its center. "Anything" is the standout track on an album without any filler to speak of. Healy's tender falsetto wraps around an amazingly lovely chorus as strings and soft acoustic guitars set the scene musically. It's one of 2010's best ballads for sure.
"Wreckorder" also boasts a few big guest stars as well. Neko Case shines on the duet "Sing Me To Sleep", an almost hip-hop like beat carrying things along. And none other than Sir Paul McCartney lends his hand, providing bass on "As It Comes".
There truly isn't a bad song amongst the ten on "Wreckorder", and Healy continues his penchant for both intelligent lyrics and unforgettable melodies. Clocking in at just over 34 minutes, you're left wanting more, but fine with the album's length since it works from beginning to end so well. The softer vibe of much of this material makes this a perfect fall listen. I associate certain albums with the fall/winter season, just based on that sound, and this is a new one to add to that category. Pour a hot cup of tea, wrap yourself in your favorite blanket, throw on the headphones and let the warmth of "Wreckorder" envelope you. Highly recommended.
"Wreckorder" was released in the U.S. October 5, 2010 on the Rykodisc label.