Some artists play it safe with their music, but some like Peter McVeigh will push themselves to evolve their craft. Over the years, he has been creating on his own or as the frontman of the band, St. Alban. Whatever the project may be, the authentic tone of his work continues to captivate the listener. Either delivering a sound influenced by Irish folk, new -post-rock or something in between, there is an irresistible charm to his work. Especially with songs such as “Home”, “Heaven”, and “The Anchor”.
McVeigh released his new album The Tree of Life after a successful Kickstarter campaign. It is a collection of songs assembled with the help of the talented musician’s Andy Dunlop, Conor McAuley, Emma Langford & Mark Evitts. Talking about the new release, McVeigh says it is, “Without a doubt, the most difficult album to do considering all the crap that happened. But taking all I learnt from the last St. Alban record, I decided I’d engineer & mix this album. It has been a class & melting experience. But I’m honestly massively proud of this album. It’s just something I’ve worked really hard on and is, without a doubt, the best album I’ve ever made. I kinda feel like I’m only finding myself now, but there’s a feeling here that has been missing from the last two records”.
Fans of McVeigh will notice as soon as they press play, there is something different about his sound. As he mentioned earlier, he has learned a lot from his previous work, and it shows. Not only is it more defined, but there is a confidence flowing throughout The Tree of Life from the beginning to its closing moments. There is no doubt that his songwriting and production has evolved too. All these elements come together to create a collection of songs that will receive a lot of praise.
The Tree of Life opens up with the aptly named “And so it starts”. The listener becomes drawn in by the soothing atmospheric mood and gentle vocals. It takes up almost half of the song before McVeigh comes in with his words. He shares a story reflecting a new beginning or adventure in life. Highlighted by the opening lines, “And so it starts / I’m no longer just a thought / A plan, a future, of a life I might not lead / so I depart / to a home, I’ve never seen before”. The music has space to breathe and enhances the mood further. As it progresses, additional musical layers join the soundtrack. But it all is added to increase the delight on the ears. It is a great way to start the album.
Listen to “Good People” below
“Good People” offers a familiar sound for long time fans. Along with “Not Going Home”, it shows how his storytelling and his guitar can create such an irresistible charm. Between these songs comes the first stand out moment of the album. “Erase You” offers a tender moment created by McVeigh and his piano. The emotional tone created from this partnership is mesmerising. Even when the song bursts into life on the final third, it takes nothing away. The drums and guitars help to add rock elements to the track and in doing so, add more passion to the outro lines, “As I Erase You I lose myself / If I Erase you it’s gone / As I Erase You I lose myself / If I Erase you it’s Gone / Gone / Gone / Gone.”
The short story “First Steps” feels more like an interval. Like those before it, its sound is a delight on the ears. However, it soon gets eclipsed by another stellar moment from the release “This Time.” It is a beautiful duet with Emma Langford, who starts things off with, “It was this time yesterday / I was standing here / saying nothing’s changed / but the sunset on a string of misadventures / that we called another year.” Her voice is delicate and flows so effortlessly. When McVeigh joins in, he mirrors the tone perfectly.
As the song progresses, the two of them vocally dance around each other to create something exceptional. When they do intertwine their voices, it is an added bonus. You can hear this when the chorus arrives, “This time / You can try to lead I’ll follow / This time / Bring me all your joy your sorrows / This time tomorrow / I’ll still be yours / I’ll still be yours.” It is a shame when the song comes to an end, as it is a moment you could listen to much longer.
Listen to “This Time” below, off of The Tree of Life
“Two People” is a song written by Andy Dunlop, whose talents bring the magic on the keys. Even though McVeigh did not write them, he connects with the lyrics to perfection. The emotional delivery of each line feels so personal to him. It’s a quality that excels during the chorus, “God knows without you / What would I do? / Cuz there’s only two people / There’s two people / There’s two people / You & I.” You don’t just hear each word, but you feel it too. “Hide & Seek” is a song inspired by his little girl (who also appears towards the song’s end). It is a little reminder to appreciate the time with your children as time goes by so quickly.
The tempo changes with the arrival of “Maybe You.” The foot-tapping beats are a good change of pace to bring something different to the album. Its anthemic hook makes you want to sing along to “Well you can be anyone you want / Anytime you need Any day this week / Make the change & be / Anyone you want / It’s just time to see / Forget all those voices / Make the change & be.” “Lost Sometimes” brings another beautiful piano-driven track. McVeigh’s heartfelt vocals shine again as it intertwines with the keys and strings. As the title suggests, it is about being lost, but as the song comes to a close, he reminds the listener that it is ok to have help when it happens.
As Tree of Life prepares to reach its final act, “Final Steps” and “Just a Dream” (Feat Emma Langford) take the listener towards its end. Both offer a captivating vocal display. Seeing the album out is “The Old Guard”. The various layers of instruments create a gorgeous soundtrack as compelling as the story. Yet again, it highlights how much his sound and his arrangement skills have grown.
Each song is a gorgeous listen and Peter McVeigh deserves all the praise he will receive for The Tree of Life
Honestly, the first listen of The Tree of Life was as good as his previous work. As a long time fan, the difference in his sound didn’t fully grab my attention. From the second listen onwards, an appreciation for what he created appeared. It is now clear to hear why he is proud of what he has put together. Each song can breathe and is so good to stand out on its own. It is a collection of songs all about quality but still maintaining that honest trait that Peter McVeigh projects within his songs. Overall it is an album that deserves your listening time.