Fink Sort of Revolution

[Ninja Tune; 2009]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: folk, singer-songwriter, R&B
Others: John Legend, Zero, Citizen Cope

Fin Greenall, a.k.a. Fink, is a Brighton-based singer-songwriter whose new album, Sort of Revolution, is his third effort released by Ninja Tune. And, in nearly every way, the songs on Sort of Revolution sound exactly like what you would expect from an acoustic-toting singer-songwriter signed by Ninja Tune: introspective lyrics over groovy, urban backdrops. A proudly understated musician, Fink crafts a hushed, mellow album that is equal parts brooding and soulful. Primarily accompanied solely by Guy Whittaker on bass and Tim Thronton on drums, Fink’s jazzy-folk sound is occasionally dour, but often gratifyingly distinct from most of today’s independent singer-songwriters.

Every track on Sort of Revolution would feel at home in a warm, European coffeehouse -- you can practically smell the clove smoke and darjeeling aromas wafting through the speakers. The album’s opening title track is clearly its strongest and best exemplifies Greenall’s ability to turn a deceivingly simple guitar riff into a beautiful, haunting experience. Clocking at over six and a half minutes, Greenall patiently utilizes all of his musical space and allows his smooth voice to gently carry the listener. “Let me know when we get there/ If we get there” he pleads over a softly tapping bass and sporadic drum clacks, setting a dim lyrical precedent that's developed throughout the album. Perhaps to repay Greenall for collaborating on his Evolver album, R&B sensation John Legend co-writes and plays piano on the next track "Move On Me," a placid study in tension-and-release. Meanwhile, "Q & A" is a spaced-out, sexy joint that cleverly eludes over-repetition by playing around with various filters and studio effects, effortlessly conjuring lonely city streets on cold, existential nights.

If there were a fatal flaw with Sort of Revolution, it would be that the album seems like a chronological misfit. In the late 90s and early 00s, neo-soul was peaking, and there were hordes of marginally talented artists who were trying to perfect the scruffy-white-boy-gets-soulful sound. Record labels knew that there were big dollars to be made from artists who could thread silky vocals through acoustic 7th-chord transitions, and so the world sifted through throngs of Ben Harpers, Morcheebas, and G-Loves, before Jack Johnson emerged unscathed as Captain Coffeeshop. The American music world now seems to have moved past the all-encompassing acoustic-jazzy style.

Still, Fink’s music shines more genuinely than the vast majority of the aforementioned artists (having John Legend co-write two of the songs certainly helps). Whereas the group of music listeners who directly seek out subtle bachelor-pad filler has decreased in the past several years, I imagine that Greenall’s sound is appealing enough to attract a wide variety of listeners who wouldn’t normally think they’d like this sort of thing; he's already built up a substantial fanbase in Britain. Even though Fink may likely get grouped with other folky singer-songwriters, it's obvious on Sort of Revolution that there is a dark groove streaming through the man’s psyche, and that at least makes him a perfect fit in the Ninja Tune collection.

1. Sort Of Revolution
2. Move On Me
3. Six Weeks
4. Nothing Is Ever Finished
5. See It All
6. Q & A
7. If I Had A Million
8. Pigtails
9. Maker
10. Walking In The Sun

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