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Non Canon: Non Canon II

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I don’t known much for sure but can say with utter certainty that Non Canon (aka Barry Dolan) has the most rabid fans in the country; either that or a large family.

I reviewed his first album under this name, the imaginatively entitled Non Canon (sans I), and said that while I could see that some people might like his brand of introspective indie, it did nothing for me at all.

When the review was posted online, his fans, who clearly love him (he also plays with the band Oxygen Thief), objected on the grounds that the album was in fact brilliant, so my opinion was factually incorrect. In their blind adoration, they were baffled that I could not warm to an album while being able to see it might appeal to someone else.

So I pressed play on this with some trepidation, expecting a lukewarm reaction from me and more ire from his fans.

But: wa hey! This time round, it’s everything his fans said it was: a wonderful, warm, melodic and likeable collection of tunes. Fabulous.

I think he’s improved (like really, really) rather than my ears being transplanted; this is just much better than the first Non Canon album.

It’s a fairly traditional acoustic pop sound, though fans of folky electronica such as Four Tet might like it, too, as well as fans of the likes of Gravenhurst. The songs hang around Dolan’s vocals, mainly with acoustic guitar but also strings, piano and percussion.

The album kicks off with Never Say Never Again, which opens with just guitar and vocals, Dolan singing about his mental issues, “I went to the doctor to renew my prescription / she asked me how I thought things were working out”. He thinks he feels better but it’s hard “because the world is so shit”. He goes on to say he thought people were “inherently good if easily swayed” and doesn’t want to believe he misunderstood “but that might be the case.” A simple song to which many people will relate.

The Cavalier Years is more cheerful with some wit; “I’m much more Baldrick than Blackadder” he sings at one point; it appears to be about expectations versus reality and (possibly) the pressure of social media, “the thoughts of a few thousand strangers waiting to be read,” is one of the closing lyrics, accompanied by strings that make the song both beautiful and classy.

Social media may also be at the forefront of Dark Force Rising, which addresses the confusion in some between fact and opinion; you can hold terrible opinions but can’t have your own facts, and can’t complain when people challenge your dodgy opining.

The Sayings Of The Seers opens with lazy saxophone and is about mental health again, getting up on dark mornings and leaving bed where it’s warm and safe; I think the narrator has seasonal affective disorder as there is much longing for sun.

As well as health issues he tackles equality and even, in A Teapot and an Open Mind, the benefits of constantly educating oneself in life, in the sense of not only learning but adapting your thoughts to meet changing demands of society, pretty obvious the last couple of weeks; “each generation should be better than the one that came before it,” he sings. “It’s not your fault if you were taught wrong / It is if you don’t change,” the song ends, as up to date a slogan as you could want.

A top album. Anyone who likes indie singer songwriters or heart-on-sleeve acoustic music should give it a listen.


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