Review: Liam Corcoran, “Giving Tree and Other Songs”

Liam Corcoran - Giving Tree and Other Songs

An East Coast singer-songwriter endeavors to camouflage his natural pop-rock sensibilities.

One gets the impression PEI’s Liam Corcoran is in a state of flux since his last tender and immaculate full length Nevahland was released in 2017. The ten songs are a potpourri of indie-pop-rock. The first half of “The Giving Tree and other songs” is acoustic and minimalistic; tracks in the second half receive a more full sound but… idiosyncratically.  As much as the first five songs inhabit the same sonic bubble, each song in the latter half burst the bubble in a different direction.

Gentle opener (and title track) The Giving Tree was inspired by the classic Shel Silverstein children’s book of the same name. It’s a wonderful song where Liam uses the tree as a metaphor for his feelings for his home and hometown. Though there’s another layer to the lyrics if you’ll permit my attempt to decipher the meaning… “the giving tree” is his artistic inspiration; the songs are of course the fruit he’s taken for consumption.

The sonic simplicity and straightforwardness of these first five songs leave a soft impression in the listeners mind like footprints in snow.  Five Disasters Ago drifts passed a little too easily without grabbing your attention.  Comes And Goes simmers but never boils. Liam whispers the vocals so quietly, it’s like he recorded them late at night and didn’t want to wake anyone else in the house.  The hushed volume works on some tunes but seems a little underwhelming on others.

But, hold on.  Appropriately titled, given the placement to separate the acoustic numbers of side 1 to the eclectic second side, Flip the Tables suddenly adds layers to accent Liam’s voice. A drum machine, harmonies, even a guitar solo.  It’s a bold move, that pays off. I mean…come on!!! This is what pop-tunes should sound like in the new millennium!

This leads us to a great electric guitar-driven power-pop-punk track –  I’m A Wreck.  In 1979 Elvis Costello or Joe Jackson would have had a hit single with this cut.  In fact I’m A Wreck would have been a great double A-Side for Is She Really Going Out With Him.  This is definitely one of my favorite tracks that I’ll be including in mixes for people all year.

Suffice to say, Side 2 jumps from one style to another for each track. It plays like a mix-tape of bands… except they are all distinctly Liam.

Track 9 Just Like That is another beast completely. It reminds me of the sound on Velvet Underground’s posthumous release Live at Max’s Kansas City. It’s a live recording; a slow tempo with a stomping beat which sets the table for Liam to lay some bluesy guitar and forlorn vocals on top.

Then, Change A Little Part of the World turns the tables on the listener one last time for a fiddle infused, traditional country/folk ditty.

Overall, The Giving Tree and Other songs serves as an accurate account of Liam’s last couple of years filled with domesticity and fatherhood. The songs showcase a wide ranging sampling of his wonderful talent for songwriting and singing, without straying too far from his roots.   Nor does he really need to.  An apple is simple and beautiful as it is. You can add sweetness like cinnamon or caramel to heighten the enjoyment but such garnishes not always necessary.

Standout Tracks: Giving Tree, I’m A Wreck, Just Like That

Available for preorder digitally and on limited edition vinyl.

Visit Liam Corcoran on Facebook.

A bit of a Renaissance man, Steve Murphy is a singer-songwriter, author, and journalist based out of London, Ontario. An avid vinyl collector and audiophile, his personal collection of albums is wide ranging and in the thousands, including four released from his band Westminster Park.

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