The result is always interesting when a singer-songwriter trying to make their way in the music world releases an album – especially if that musician is a student who is trying to juggle their efforts with academic work. It must be a real challenge to put in incredible amounts of time, effort and money into an album and then have to put in extra efforts to ensure people know that the work exists.
It is especially pleasing then that Isaac Lister’s second album, Chambers, really does hit the right note (pun very much intended). Lister, a student at the University of York, delivers ten tracks to follow up on his first album Nightmare, knitting together a great combination of blues and rock genres.
The first song on the album, ‘Drop The Ball’ offers a good way into the album, with a lively tempo and excitable buzz which sets the benchmark for tracks to follow. The first four or five songs on the album deal with some difficult topics, ranging from wrenching personal anguish to domestic abuse. However, the combination of great music and wonderfully crafted lyrics mean that these tracks are still as easy to listen to as any other, despite some quite gritty and angular melodies.
‘Drop The Ball’ is followed by one of my favourite songs on the album, ‘Expendable Love’. Again, it has a very energetic blues intro, and what really makes this for me is the infectious tempo which leaves you inevitably tapping along to the beat.
Lister is fiercely passionate about his music. This is evident in his words, which have an abundance of poignancy and importance. There is a steady flow in the first half of the album, with each track leading slickly into the next. However, this is then punctuated by the sixth track, “Tuesday Blues,” which is a departure from those which come before it. Ironically, although the title of the song suggests otherwise, this song doesn’t follow the blues style of its predecessors and it is remarkably different. It stems the tide of blues rock tracks up to that point, acting as a catalyst for a change in course of the album as a whole.
‘Tuesday Blues’ is, in its own right, a brilliant song. Lister uses clever lyrics and it has a particularly strong chorus, but what makes this is some genuinely phenomenal music. The guitar is in many ways reminiscent of David Grey’s White Ladder, which is in itself a fantastic album.
After this intersection in the middle of the album, the subsequent tracks take on a different form, with Lister being much more direct in his lyrics. There is a real sense of emotion and feeling here, which add an extra layer of meaning to the album.
This is by no means any kind of Chambers love-in; there is a sense of frustration with the penultimate track, ‘Spitting Static’. Although the song starts as well as any other on the album, it perhaps lacks the strong chorus which it cries out for. The stage is well-set for a good climax, but it never really develops before the song ends, leaving us wanting a little bit more. That is not to say it is a bad song; it is not, but it would certainly benefit from that bit extra.
However, this only serves to make the closing song of this album even better. ‘Spitting Static’ leaves us wanting more, and the final track, ‘Whispering Time’, duly delivers. It is a quintessential album-closer which certainly gives us what we came for. This song has an almost filmic sense to it; it is big, bold and dramatic. It would act perfectly as a soundtrack for the final scene of a particularly emotionally-charged film and has an accomplished feel to it. This quality means that it is not only the best song on the album by some distance, but also the perfect way to round it off.
Three songs in particular on this album stand out for me as particularly good – ‘Whispering Time’, ‘Expendable Love’ and ‘Tuesday Blues’. All are different in their own way, but this trio encompasses how good the album is. There are plenty of likenesses to top musicians here – Sting, David Gray and GNR to name just three – but in reality, Lister has his own unique style and the real sense of passion which shines through is Chambers’ greatest quality.
Overall, Chambers is an excellent album. It starts well, has a refreshing and interesting twist in the middle, and finishes with a flourish. I can’t help but feel that Isaac Lister has really done himself justice as a singer, songwriter and musician. It is certainly well worth its money and after Chambers’ grandstand closer with Whispering Time, I await his third album with excited anticipation.