Studio Zoo, Newton Faulkner’s 4th studio album, was recorded in a very unique and highly experimental way. Setting up shop at him English home, the dreaded superstar of acoustic pop allowed fans front row seats to witness a master at work, streaming the creation of the record live on his website for millions to tune in and watch. The title pretty much sums up the journey that Newton has made with this new record, allowing all eyes on the Dream Catch Me hit-maker for 5 weeks of recording in the lead up to the albums unveiling.
Newton since first broke the mainstream back in 2007 when the songwriter released his debut album, Handbuilt By Robots, a collection that reached the number one spot in the UK charts. 6 years have passed since the release of the musician’s debut, a record that spawned a string of incredible, acoustic guitar driven gems of pop deliciousness including Dream Catch Me, I Need Something, All I Got and an incredible version of Massive Attack’s Teardrop. His debut was followed quickly by his sophomore effort, 2009’s Rebuilt By Humans and then a third, Write It On Your Skin, his 2nd number one album, in 2012.
Over the years Newton’s records have never lost touch with his roots in acoustic pop, a genre that was mastered with his debut and carried through the subsequent 2 releases and a genre that has served his unique guitar playing style with character and splendor.
Where To Start cracks open to zoo doors with its quick-delivered guitar strum rhythm and almost improvised vocal structure, conveying the laid back feel that is to be heard throughout the duration of Studio Zoo. The vocal peaks that Faulkner reaches are almost spine-tingling, as are the beautifully layered harmonies that are placed over the track.
The following Treading Water is a somber addition early on in the record and instrumentally basic when compared to the majority of previous Newton Faulkner pennings but it sits sweetly at the opening of Studio Zoo with a strong sense of belonging.
Showing off his guitar playing dexterity, Newton rips into the following Plastic Hearts, a summery stunner with some subtle key scales adding an occasional dashing of charm to this pretty penning.
Indecisive fills in the opening of the record with one of its most mainstream tracks, bursting with a radio-friendly quality and Newton’s incredible vocals being poured out over the instrumentally minimalistic offering while Losing Ground, which takes up residency in the center of Studio Zoo, is clearly the selling point of the new album, fronting the collection as its lead single and deservedly so as the track is drenched in hooks and a lovable, instant-hit glazing to it.
Don’t Make Me Go There is a much more contrasting addition compared to the rest of the tracks that surround it with Newton pulling in some haunting cello strings to help guide the numbers melancholic vocal arrangement.
The record ends on a high with the vocally vibrant Orange Skies, one of the records more memorable, sing-a-long-friendly pieces. The track carries a ‘round the campfire’ vibe as multiple vocals are weaved together atop a simple guitar melody and Newton’s flawless and confident lead vocal.
While the improvised and experimental approach of Studio Zoo can feel a little overdone by the end of the collection, it does a fine job at showcasing Newton Faulkner as a fully-fledged artist who thrives on creating music that is meaningful and inspiring. Gone are the heavily produced and mainstream coated music video hits (though that is also a quality that is missed slightly on Studio Zoo) and in its place we are welcomed by a much more acoustically raw and basic record.
Though the title may stipulate chaos, it doesn’t necessarily translate through the songs on Studio Zoo with the majority taking on a much more laid back than frenzied dressing. These are the types of songs that allow us to see and feel the emotion and storytelling behind the musician and not just the production talents of his crew.
The track listing Newton has pieced together is quite cohesive and this fresh approach to creating a record, opening the doors and bridging the gap between artist and fan in this unique way, only helps to add further appeal to this new Faulkner collection.
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
Interviewing and reviewing the best in new music and globally recognized artists is his passion.
Over the years he has been lucky enough to review thousands of music releases and concerts and interview artists ranging from top selling superstars like 27-time Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss, Boyz II Men, Roxette, Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Loeb and iconic Eagles front man/songwriter, Glenn Frey through to more recent successes including Newton Faulkner, Janelle Monae and Caro Emerald.
Brendon manages and coordinates the amazing team of writers on RenownedForSound.com who are based in the UK, the U.S and Australia.