I’m a man of simple pleasures. I exist through routine and comfort, but take complete and utter joy from the moments that knock me off balance. This, unsurprisingly, extends to how I feel about music. As records turn into years, I find myself gravitating to the same fundamental building blocks, searching for songs that reinvent everything I thought I knew as opposed to completely reinventing myself.
Acoustic guitars. Tasteful, spot on accompaniment and a rhythm section that more than punches its weight. We’re consistently told that the most beautiful experience is the mysterious - and as the volume of acts fighting over the same textures and programmed moments begins to suck you under, you might agree - but for some reason we’ve been convinced that mystery is only offered through huge sweeping changes.
At a surface level, Corner of the Eye might appear to be just another collection of ear pleasing melodies. These songs - spontaneous collaborations built through talent and the musical understandings grown from time and friendship - could be undiscovered AM radio moments, slid into jukeboxes across the nation. “Guarding My Love”, at the core, has all the timeless beauty of The Traveling Wilburys and honestly, the entire record offers moments that conjure names like Petty, Buckingham and Nicks. The radio fade outs, the focus on the simple strings. For something crafted so quickly and freely, the end results are sublime.
The warm comfort draws you in; Ian Kehoe and his friends have written songs that are as inviting as an open front door, but what makes Corner of the Eye feel so important to me is how often and successfully it challenges the status quo. The pristine beauty we expect from those untouchable names is gracefully morphed to sound completely of the moment. Hints of noise, distortion and even dub are nestled deep in the mix, piquing our interest unexpectedly time and time again.
Like my favorite books and movies, the greatness of Corner of the Eye is found in the moments. The sprinters burst Kehoe adds with a simple hand shaker on “Roots Come After Lengthy Waits”, the bouncing bass lines of “How Can I Be So Misunderstood” and “Guarding My Love”, the bold choice of instrumentation of “I Won’t Be Abandoned” and even the military procession drum beat that keeps “Mourning” in line; the record rewards the dedicated listener with more on each play.
When Kehoe admits that he needs “more from music now than I did at the start”, it hits like a sledgehammer. For him, music might be a personal release, the chance to see himself in a life that isn’t his, but the simple truth is that listeners are exposed to more middle of the road music than ever before. Complacency and convenience have made most music no different than cable TV. If you search on descriptors like sun-kissed or shimmering, you quickly see how shamelessly artists transform the sun into a simple yellow dot, removing any of the meaning and brilliance. But, as a great man once said, “there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun.” Ian Kehoe is one of those artists.