Review : Duke Special - Oh Pioneer
BbcSince earning nominations for both the Meteor Prize and the Choice Music Prize for his second album Songs from the Deep Forest, Duke Special has maintained an admirable course of consistency. The Belfast-born artist, real name Peter Wilson, hasn’t once compromised integrity for a proper pop at mainstream success on either side of the Irish Sea.
As a result, many of his long-players – Oh Pioneer is his tenth – have failed to connect with industry movers and shakers capable of convincing a public to invest in a new (to them) artist. But these 11 tracks are, probably, his most immediate songs since Songs from the Deep Forest. They occupy a similar stylistic space, where a very palpable lyrical ache plays out against backdrops of gentle piano motifs and light but playful percussion, and brass and woodwind embellishments.
One senses that Wilson could pen a song for any chart-humping superstar in a heartbeat, and do very well out of the deal, thank you very much. His songs possess a purity that the likes of Gary Barlow have channelled to amazing returns. Numbers like Lost Chord and Punch of a Friend are swaying, soft-hearted affairs that only the gifted can make sound like second nature. Always Been There pulls the kind of piano-pop shapes that Keane earn their considerable crust with, and is an effortlessly endearing equal of said act’s more inspired output....full text
FemalefirstDuke Special has been released music since 2005 but his new album Oh Pioneer is perhaps the most mainstream record yet - not to mention it is a great record.
What is so great about this artist is the imagery that he can conjure through his lyrics, and this is something that he displays right from the off.
Stargazers Of The World Unite (A Love Song For Astronomers) is the opening track on the album and it just oozes with uniqueness and originality.
He follows this up with Little Black Fish and Wilson's gentle vocals just pull you into the track as he paints a picture with his words.
The first standout track on the album is Punch Of A Friend, a track that has quite a nostalgic feel to it.
The simple vocals and the great instrumentation really does give the track a dreamy feel and it's a really laid back number.
The vocal really does take centre stage but Duke has picked instruments and arrangements that support his voice brilliantly - it really is one of my favourite tracks on the album.
Snakes In The Grass couldn't be more different and there is almost a theatrical feel to the track that is incredibly uplifting.
Condition is another truly outstanding track on this album as Duke strips everything back to leave just his voice and a mainly a piano.
The minimalism on this track works so well as the richness of Duke's voice is enough to really hold your attention as he sings about being human.
This is such a beautiful track and the sparseness of just helps it pack a further punch....full text
MusicomhDuke Special is a white man with dreadlocks. Normally that’s a reason for us to concoct a complex plan to lock that person in carbonite for all eternity. However, he gets a pass because... well, he is special. Duke Special. Oh Pioneer is the man formely known as Peter Wilson’s 10th release since 2005 and it is a corker.
It lays out its stall from the off. “Swimming in a circle is not like being free…” Little Black Fish drags you in with arresting lyrics, Wilson’s gentle vocals and intriguing sounds swirling behind the keyboard and sparse drums. It progresses to Punch Of A Friend, which takes things darker with organ and subtle multiple Dukes duking it out. Then, Snakes In The Grass feels like a song from a grown up Jungle Book, Wilson by parts Baloo, by parts Kaa with operatic touches that feel like Queen on a indie band’s budget, while Condition is motivational pop gone twisted, Christina Aguilera’s Fighter pushed through the kaleidoscope mind of one man from Northern Ireland: “I am cause/I am effect/I am sober/I am wrecked…”
Nothing Shall Come Between Us takes Duke Special into torch song territory; Sally Bowles at 4am, hammered on gin. There are horns burbling in the background and more strident piano to the fore. Once again Wilson’s voice anchors it all, a really rich and beautiful instrument backed up here by a gorgeous female backing. Elsewhere, Lost Chord is a big piano pop song, the kind you wish Chris Martin could still write when he's not distracted by hugging Rhianna and bigging up Jay-Z, and How I Learned To Love The Sun sounds like an organist playing for himself on a hot afternoon at the end of a crumbling pier, pretending he’s Macheath in Threepenny Opera. It makes a convincing case for embracing drama in indie pop....full text
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