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No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal
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  • What Peter Milton Walsh does as a songwriter is so simple yet so beguiling it almost seems like a trick. Walsh, the leader of the venerable Australian chamber pop ensemble the Apartments, has the ability to craft melodies that are elemental yet timeless in their graceful, affecting beauty, and his lyrics hold a mirror to love and loss in a manner that's deeply evocative but never sinks into sentimentality or melodrama. Quite simply, Walsh has a touch that's all but miraculous, and a heart that's real even when it aches. 2015's No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal is the first album from the Apartments in 15 years, though it hardly sounds as if someone labored over it that long. Instead, this music feels as if it spontaneously emerged from the collective mind and spirit of Walsh and his collaborators, and the natural, immediate tone is a wonder in itself given the subtle precision of the arrangements and production, which are artful and dynamic without seeming overworked. No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal features eight new songs from Walsh, which marry the emotional intelligence of a gifted poet with the emotional intimacy of a conversation overheard in a coffee shop, and these sketches of heartache and disappointment may not go over at your next party, but on a quiet evening at home, this is just the sort of music that overcomes melancholy with its genuine beauty and superb craft (it's not often that songs with arrangements as spare and roomy as these also manage to sound so full-bodied), while "September Skies" shows there is room for sunshine in Walsh's world, suggesting Lloyd Cole in his classic period. No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal is a master class in intelligent pop songwriting that's a near perfect reminder that Peter Milton Walsh is a neglected hero worthy of rediscovery, and with any luck this album should open some fresh ears to his singular talent. ~ Mark Deming
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