Standstill

by Conor Mason

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about

Armellodie Records proudly presents the delectable talents of Conor Mason with his new album, Standstill released on Monday 19th March 2012.

Born and raised in the old walled city on the banks of the River Foyle, Conor Mason has been brought up swimming in musical heritage with both his parents heavily involved in local choirs and music jamborees in his beloved hometown of Derry, N. Ireland.

“My da ran a choir (as his father did before him) and they used to rehearse in our home, my ma sang in the choir too and I used to listen in from the next room. Then around the age of 8, after my parents heard me playing by ear the music of an Irish mass my da had written, they dutifully sent me off for classical piano lessons. They were both music lovers, to the extent that even the small boat my da would take me and my brothers out fishing in was called „Iolanthe‟, named after the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera.”

Standstill is in fact the third album from the Irish songwriter, with two previous offerings, Let It Unfold (2007) and When It’s Over (2009) suitably home-recorded and self-distributed through cyberspace, earning Mason a solid reputation in his native land with a host of television and radio support from BBC Northern Ireland. Standstill retains the mellow, home-grown, quality perfected on those records albeit with some new found scope, inherently familiar whilst always remaining fresh and extrinsic.

When the opening bars of „Misunderstood’ complete with muted trumpets and unhurried acoustic strumming make way for the driving rhythm and rumbling piano, there‟s a glowing immediacy before the first lines leave Mason‟s lips, “made more sense, behind closed eyes, we were making plans and not taking advice”, sang in an unashamedly colourful yet seductively subtle brogue, the song boasts an alluring punch-the-air quality without ever sounding forced.

‘Lights’ reinforces this plaintive but hopeful raison d‟être, and on „Words’, Mason‟s gorgeously nuanced vocals, fragile but beautifully phrased, are particularly well served by the production, sitting right in the centre of the mix, every subtle inflection clear to the listener.

“Standstill represents the big race up the hill of self-actualisation, some get to the top no sweat and some get so far and plateau, others are constantly going back down to begin the climb again”

With a crisp vision of beautifully arranged dynamic landscapes Mason excels on the album‟s sparse title track – an acoustic version of which is available on vinyl from Never Records - lending a clarity to which his vocal hooks are delivered with sweet sincerity. He floats over simple and compelling melodies, intricate instrumentation and whimsical, but never trite choruses with an ease bordering on ambivalence.

It‟s with this gentility that Mason comes over so charmingly genuine as on the harmonica led, „Out of the Blue’, an ode in itself to sincerity and what it means to people (“somewhere between the head and the heartache sincerity hides / somewhere between the heart and the headache sincerity hides”), and the breezy pace of „5AM’ where swirling synthesizers enter into the fray and delicate brass enrich the sonic template, complimenting Mason‟s mellifluous vocal.

Lush flowing melodies continue to take flight on the introspective lullaby-like „Sundown’ and the startling „Last To Leave’ with it‟s minimal but wonderfully transcendent sound leaving plenty of room for a melody so natural sounding, it glides along with a touch of class.

Understated and refined Standstill doesn‟t reveal all of its treasures at once, the songs augmented with tastefully layered instrumentation and playful, inconspicuous production. Unperturbed it plays out in no rush, possessing a relaxed, pastoral feel comparative to that of The Shins or Badly Drawn Boy‟s finest work.

The final two songs, the lilting waltz of ‘In The Doorway’ and the contemplative ‘A Picture of Farewell’ reiterate the themes that permeate the record. That of the cyclic humdrum that hypnotises so many, and the niggling insecurities and attachments - be it a lover, a family, a town or a job - that so often thwart people from seizing the day.

“All this stillness, and all this steadiness, has left you here alone”, he sings before offering up some hope with the closing lines, “now we set out in search of a sign / we set out in search of an explanation” as the gorgeous harmonica coda-line takes over, the record befits it‟s moniker and comes to a standstill, downbeat but affectionately uplifting.

It may seem somewhat foolish to be peddling a press release for an artist that proclaims, “I don‟t need a stamp of approval from anyone, you can take it or leave it”, as Conor Mason does on opener „Misunderstood‟. Yet despite this strident declaration, the quality and warmth of Mason‟s voice and the obvious care taken in his song-writing serve only as a counter to his claim, instead revealing a tunesmith with a collection of songs so tender that they could turn even the most cold hearted cynic into a hopeless, desperate romantic.

credits

released 19 March 2012

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Track Name: Misunderstood
Made more sense, behind closed eyes
we were making plans, not taking advise
things become disconnected
everything you say, is taken the wrong way
Don't need a stamp of approval, from anyone
you can take it or leave it
cos when the air is clear, they'll be saying it again

Misunder, Understood
Is at your side
filling in the blanks for everyone

Yesterday stays with you
its like a heavy case, of deja vu
every step a reflection,
of another day, its like watching a replay
need no persuasion, to abondon the simple things
as they lay under starlight, staring up
we'll be saying it again

Misunder, Understood
Is at your side
filling in the blanks
Misunder, Understood
Is at your side
filling in the blanks for everyone
Track Name: Lights
Your face in the mirror
less familiar as you step nearer
questioning the routine
that drains the time like a machine

Go out for a remedy
until you sway heavily
you don't mind the cycle
cos you know its not final

Over your head, i see the lights now coming on
Over your head, i see the lights now coming on

Theres a shift in your attitude
embracing what cannot be understood
scared your heart into the corner
of the room
your just somebody the loses track
of whats going on
rolling with the punches
struggling to find the words

Over your head, i see the lights now coming on
Over your head, i see the lights now coming on
Track Name: Words
A shadow of the clouds moves on the pavement
among the people in a hurry to leave their mark
On this planet it spins, it rotates regardless
of the heights you hit, oh the failures that go with it
you cross off the seconds, like days of the calender
and visualise, a decline in slow motion
daylight returns, while you're finding your feet
you're still finding you're feet

these words, they're not useless
but they won't work on their own
this part of you, that means something
is still standing alone
words, can't be useless
but they won't work on their own

Now turn off the distractions
and walk right through this avalanche
with hope intact
of the outcome who can be exact
so laugh it off for good, for good

these words, they're not useless
but they won't work on their own
this part of you, that means something
is still standing alone
words, can't be useless
but they won't work on their own
Track Name: Standstill
A timeline that leaves you for dead
by the wayside, scratching your head
should i have made more use of the time
all those days spent standing in line
its easier said than done
seems easier lost than won
from this blinding point of view
that your faith could have fallen into

Everything stands still
on your way back downhill
Everything stands still
on your way back downhill

A future you have in your sights
you just wait for it to take flight
convince them all that, you never had a doubt
that the good days would soon come about

Everything stands still
on your way back downhill

you think of it less and less
now you're happy with what you possess
everything else rushes past
as you prepare yourself for coming last

Everything stands still
on your way back downhill
Everything stands still
on your way back downhill
Track Name: Out Of The Blue
The new year, came out of the blue
I'm not complaining, cos its well overdue
promises invade every sentence
but you break them in an instant
moment of weakness

somewhere between
between the head and the heartache
sincerity hides
somewhere between
between the heart and the headache
sincerity hides

you're patience is losing every battle
up against this symphony of pretence
everything on your mind disappears
its lost among the cheers of new years

somewhere between
between the head and the heartache
sincerity hides
somewhere between
between the heart and the headache
sincerity hides
Track Name: 5am
The days are dissapearing
recently i've been fearing
that our paths will never cross again
but its just 5AM talking
Set myself up at the table
I can't sleep no i'm unable
a broken record i've become
cos its 5AM talking

Repeat, repeat
until the words fall out
over and over
until the words fall out

there's no reaction to the morning
as it hits you without warning
shield me from the outside
cos its 5AM no more
these letters in the post
yeah the kind you hate the most
there a living breathing city at my door
now that it's 5AM no more

Repeat, repeat
until the words fall out
over and over
until the words fall out
Track Name: Sundown
Carried forward
by an ivisible force
as the hours take hold
faces come and go
but they're not staying
you know, oh you know
there's no doubt
we'll see the blackout
and feel the morning return
to wake the ocean
put things in motion again
once again

we gathered round
a beautiful sound
as the sun went down
on a day, over this town

you grow tired of what's required
for a change of direction
but these bittersweet reminders fade out
as the colour drains from this place
your steps you try to retrace
back to the start

we gathered round
a beautiful sound
as the sun went down
on a day, over this town
we gathered round
a beautiful sound
as the sun went down
on a day, over this town
Track Name: Last To Leave
Been on a mission to lose a day
expecations fade away
out into the background
waiting for a secret revelation
a well needed consellation
that they won't take from you
its like living in a competition
were some jokers made the rules
and forced you to your line
been trying your hardest to become
somebody who just gets these things done
without a second thought

Is anybody foolish enough to wait for me
while i'm messing things up
is anybody foolish enough to wait for me

Which side of the exit are you on
one foots in the others gone
to pick up all the pieces
still trying their hardest to become
the people that just won't be outdone
be waiting for a while

Is anybody foolish enough to wait for me
while i'm messing things up
is anybody foolish enough to wait for me

Its only time passing, its only time fading away
Its only time passing, its only time fading away

Is anybody foolish enough to wait for me
while i'm finding these flaws
is anybody foolish enough to wait for me
while i'm clutching at straws
clutching at straws
clutching at straws
Track Name: In The Doorway
Any day now you're gonna fall out of this dream
and back into the place where your head hurts
this journey its all a reocurring theme
seperated by the sun and the moonlight
step out into the cold air
take a breath, just to make sure you're still there
cos they'll all leave guaranteed
when the silence is like falling debris

standing in the doorway
we forgot what was real
standing in the doorway
we forgot what was real

There's some kind of shape in the distance
it attracts you, you've got no resistance
there's an anchor tied to the side of your ship
you may throw overboard what you packed for the trip
and fall through the ocean to get home
a memory is drawn in this sea of emotion
you soon find that it carries on

standing in the doorway
we forgot what was real
standing in the doorway
we forgot what was real
Track Name: A Picture Of Farewell
Took the history
and put it inside a box full of your
prized possessions
treasured the seconds
that it took you to walk to the door
one last time
a familiar landscape
is gathered round you
on each side as you leave
Its a picture of farewell
the wind it pushes
the pavement cushions your every step
to someone else

we set out in search of a sign
we set out in search of an explanation

all this stillness
and all this steadiness
has left you here alone
its cure in every sense
of the words that
you don't speak so much anymore
anymore

we set out in search of a sign
we set out in search of an explanation
we set out in search of a sign
we set out in search of an explanation