NPR logo First Listen: Alexi Murdoch, 'Towards The Sun'

First Listen: Alexi Murdoch, 'Towards The Sun'

Alexi Murdoch's new album, Towards the Sun, will be released on March 8. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption
Courtesy of the artist

Alexi Murdoch's new album, Towards the Sun, will be released on March 8.

Courtesy of the artist

Audio for this feature is no longer available.

From the moment he started releasing music in 2002, singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch has drawn comparisons to English folk legend Nick Drake. To be fair, Murdoch does have a heartbreakingly beautiful voice that shares Drake's fragile grace and mystery, and Murdoch gently finger-picks his guitar with alternate tunings similar to the ones Drake used 40 years ago. And, while Murdoch is hardly the only performer to crib from the Drake canon, he pulls it off with more emotional depth and honesty than a lot of musicians.

I've always been a pushover for wispy-voiced acoustic artists, and have long thought Murdoch was a singer-songwriter I should love. But, with the exception of a few tracks here and there — check out "Song for You" from Time Without Consequence — I've never fully taken to his work until now. Murdoch's new release, Towards the Sun, is the most alluring and fully realized collection of songs he's crafted so far.

Murdoch has always self-recorded and released his music on his own label, and Towards the Sun is no different. He recorded most of its tracks in a single night while on tour in Vancouver in 2009, and that helps give the songs the innocent spontaneity of a home recording. After the tour, he revisited the recordings in Brooklyn, drawing additional support from Jon Natchez and Kelly Pratt of the band Beirut, as well as Kyle Resnick of The National.

Towards the Sun covers familiar singer-songwriter territory: There's lots of love and heartache, troubled families and reflective meditations on the mysteries concealed in life's simplest moments. Murdoch often limits the instrumentation to a basic bass drum, acoustic guitar and piano, but the mix remains rich and radiant, and he has a gift for crafting songs that feel like close companions. They're familiar but fresh, spare and intimate, but also expansive in their warmth and beauty, making Towards the Sun a good (and appropriately titled) friend as we head into spring.

Towards the Sun will stream here in its entirety until its release on March 8. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.