Roddy Frame is a man of few utterances, musical or otherwise, preferring to wait until he has something to say before expressing himself.
RODDY FRAME: SEVEN DIALS
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Consequently, his albums are few and far between. Since dropping the Aztec Camera moniker in the mid-90s, he has released only three studio albums, The North Star, Surf and, a clear eight years ago, Western Skies.
Late last year, Frame fans lapped up a handful of concerts celebrating the 30th anniversary of Aztec Camera’s classic debut High Land, Hard Rain and found it, like its creator, still fresh-faced yet sophisticated after all these years.
Frame is not generally one for nostalgia but the goodwill and energy around those shows informed the completion of this new album, recorded at Edwyn Collins’ studio West Heath Yard and for his label AED.
The years fall away again in the opening moments of the album – the path of the melody, the delicacy of the acoustic arrangement and Frame’s rich yet boyish voice on White Pony are all distinctly his.
But quickly the track opens up into a bigger production, with major piano chords and a warm guitar solo as Frame flexes his classic singer/songwriter muscles on a sweetly sentimental paean to the good times and the bad.
There are a couple more heart-on-sleeve swelling ballads to come, which hit the right inspirational tone without coming off as cheesy. In fact, Seven Dials handles all its subtly shifting styles with great assurance.
Frame channels the spirit of Fleetwood Mac on the immaculately produced Postcard – a title which refers to correspondence from California rather than his old record label – and chooses a soothing bossa nova backing to accompany the quietly contemplative Rear View Mirror.
Its impressionistic snapshots, references that perhaps Frame will keep close to his chest, are typical of the album, as is the theme of pulling away from his present life and moving on elsewhere.
The entire album is suffused with a non-angsty restlessness. “Bury me at Seven Dials so my soul can never find its way back to where I kissed you” Frame sings on the bittersweet Into The Sun. That sense of valediction is strongest on the poignant English Garden, which could give Damon Albarn a run for his melancholy money and then Elvis Costello with its final, emotional hit. Frame may be a man of few words but he makes them all count.