Trevor Sensor's debut is folk in the traditional sense; music about people, for people. His gravelly growls will grab your attention, but you will stay for the array of styles he uses and the stories he tells
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Indie Folk singer-songwriter Trevor Sensor returns with a debut that fleshes out the folk of last years ‘Texas Girls and Jesus Christ EP’. ‘Andy Warhol’s Dream’ sees him switch between styles and subjects but all the while supports a distinctive theme with a distinctive voice. It is an album about Warhol’s ‘Fifteen Minutes of Fame’ but the impact on singer and listener lasts much longer.
Opener ‘High Beams’ certainly bears the imprint of co-producer (Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado). A sunny seventies sound begins the track before Sensor’s sandpaper singing throws you off; like the lyrics you are “tightrope walking till the end of time”. The balance has you off-balance, but it all works together; middle of the road instruments with a middle of a gravel track voice.
Over the next few tracks Sensor seems to settle into more traditional Folk. ‘Lions Pride’ is possibly the weakest track on the album, but a sense of threat is maintained through the unstoppable ‘Masters of War’ guitar strumming. The similarly acoustic ‘On Your Side’ is draped in reverb and it is here we first hear the emotive capabilities in the cracks of Sensor’s voice. A buzz saw guitar solo subtly suggests the electronic sound to come in the album before we return with ‘The Reaper Man’; a country combination of acoustic and organ which sounds like the theme from a Midwestern Western.
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The first major change comes in ‘Stolen Boots’. Opening lyric “Georgie looks pretty in drag”, sees less of the threat of the previous tracks and is the first proper reference to Warhol’s own circles. This track also shows the versatility of Sensor’s voice which moves into falsetto at times. Like Warhol’s art, many of the lyrics and characters appear throwaway, mundane reproductions but actually mean something. To describe emotions is easy, but to describe actions which create those emotions in the listener is far more challenging and far more effective. Not only does Sensor do this, but he does it with a Lou Reed-like smirk; as on the chorus line “Sunday morning I woke up to you, with a hangover and stolen boots”. Although not throwaway, the stories are certainly throwback and packed with nostalgia as the characters smoke, drink and reminisce over a wistful organ.
The title track sees a further shift in style, with an ascending piano riff which supports sinister synths reminiscent of Lou Reed and John Cale’s album ‘Song’s for Drella’ (in memory of Warhol). The outlook is bleak, the sound unsettling; like if Bowie had written his ‘Andy Warhol’ with Brian Eno. It is the album’s most experimental moment.
‘It Wasn’t Good Enough’ is back to the back to basics approach with an unstoppable acoustic and tambourine combo that builds into the crushing crescendo with the lyric “my dreams are dust and can’t be found”. Once again, we think we have Sensor pinned down but then ‘Sedgewick’ starts up. Though its title may reference Edie Sedgwick (Warhol Superstar and subject of the Velvet’s ‘Femme Fatale’), it has the background noise of a Sonic Youth track. The abrasive guitars are dropped, but the abrasive voice maintained on the following track ‘In Hollywood, Everyone is Plastic’; a snarling Dylan-esque number with the words to match.
‘The Money Gets Bigger’ is about the desperation for ‘Fifteen Minutes of Fame’ and when listened in isolation it does appear to desperately crave attention. The choral harmonies, “I’m gonna be someone tonight” refrain and the frantic singing , can make the track sound like the closing number in a ‘La La Land’ type musical. When viewed alone it is overblown, but alongside the rest of the album we allow for it; it complements the title, contrasts the first few tracks and supports the overall theme. Furthermore, it fades into the most folky and simple song on the LP; ‘Starbourne Eyes’. Sensor has taken us on journey, through a series of styles and now we are back where we started.
For too long Indie Folk has been a genre dedicated to ‘indie folk’; a style specified to satisfy preening singer songwriters. Trevor Sensor’s debut may belong to this style in its sparse sound (it is often just him and a guitar) and it may support many of the pretensions of the genre with its black and white, topless, Warhol referencing cover. However, his condensing of grand ideas into compact vignettes, lyrics which mean more than they seem and ever shifting style make this album something much greater and like Kyle Craft‘s debut last year, we can’t wait to see what is to come. Maybe everyone does deserves their ‘Fifteen Minutes’, but Sensor deserves much more. It is folk for folk; by the people, for the people, about people.
‘Andy Warhol’s Dream’ is out now via Jagjaguwar. The full track-listing for the album is as follows…
01. High Beams 02. Lion’s Pride 03. On Your Side 04. The Reaper Man 05. Stolen Boots 06. Andy Warhol’s Dream 07. It Wasn’t Good Enough 08. Sedgewick 09. In Hollywood, Everyone is Plastic 10. The Money Gets Bigger 11. Starborne Eyes