Vagabond is an apt title for Stu Larsen’s new album. He’s one of those types who flits from place to place and from city to city all around the world, meeting old acquaintances and making new friends, and sleeps wherever anyone can put him up for a night or two. Luckily for him there has been a recent surge in popularity for the solo acoustic folky type sound so he’s probably also got a few bob to support this travelling lifestyle, and with best mate and high profile singer Mike Rosenberg from Passenger on producing duties, the record is all geared up to be something special.
Stu’s attitude throughout Vagabond is one of ambivalence. He can’t seem to decide whether he wants the freedom of the world or to settle down with the love of a good partner. It’s a quandary many of us face in our lives, and this provides ample, if somewhat unoriginal material to craft songs with. Fortunately for us, because Stu is so clever with his wordplay and dragging out a melody, he finds new ground where others would fall into unoriginality.
San Francisco is a gentle lullaby of an opener, soothing you into the record with more than a gentle nod to The Littlest Hobo theme music (for those of you who don’t know this, have a quick tap on youtube as its one of those songs that you probably would have heard without knowing the name). King Street kicks up the levels on social commentary lyrics, and gently builds up to a strong ending – if you can imagine Razorlight but as a folk band, this is what you have here.
Pocket Full of Change features a nice change of pace half way through, and Stu really shows off his talent for lyrics of general chatter that are on fine form at addictively stating the ordinary: I’m sitting in a cafe in Bruges and the coffee here is average, I’m just paying for the view”. In the same kind of vein is Some Kind of Gypsy, and being one of the strongest songs on the album, it really brings out the singers struggles with which direction in life to choose. This even comes through in the vocals, where he cleverly stacks lyrics on top of each other to show his frame of mind and the torture of choosing a path in life.
The album is beautifully set out and the gentle pace is kept interesting by the use of Larsen’s finest lyrics to date. It’s fair to say the singer’s many travels and ample time to think and dream has really paid off. Larsen pimps out his tortured soul to the listener, which also then projects this feeling of ambivalence over to the them – by that I mean whether or not they want Stu to stay in his confused state of mind to create more great music, or choose a path and maybe lose his magic touch forever. For purely selfish reasons, please stay confused Stu.