Declan O'Rourke and Paul Weller.

"Despite plaudits from Paul Weller (who recently chose “Galileo” as the song he wished he’d written from the last 20 years), Snow Patrol (who invited him to play guitar with them at the Oxegen Festival), and Josh Groban and Eddi Reader (both of whom have covered his songs), Dublin singer/songwriter Declan O’Rourke hasn’t yet achieved the commercial success to match his star-studded championing. Released through his own Rimecoat Records label, his third album, the bizarrely titled Mag Pai Zai, is unlikely to change matters, such is its subdued and slightly idiosyncratic nature. There are a few concessions to the more commercial folk-rock sound of its predecessor, Big Bad Beautiful World, such as lead single “A Little Something,” a gorgeous string-soaked tale of unrequited love, the Neil Young-esque blues of “Caterpillar DNA,” and the uplifting ukulele-led Hawaiian-style ditty “Lightning Bird Wind River Man.” But elsewhere, O’Rourke has used his newfound freedom to showcase his unique storytelling with an eclectic production and elastic vocal range, which sees him effortlessly switch from soaring falsetto on the life-affirming “Be Brave and Believe” to dark-timbred baritone on the Tony Bennett-referencing old-school crooner “Dancing Song.” Opening track “Slieve Boom” starts out with a gently plucked mandolin before a flurry of skittering rhythms and haunting violins kicks in, echoing the song’s narrative of a midnight journey through various isolated towns, “Langley’s Requiem” is a suitably eerie piano ballad based on the true tale of the Collyer Brothers, two compulsive hoarders who lived as hermits in 1930s New York, while “The Old Black Crow” sees O’Rourke adopt his best long Long John Silver impression as he swaggers and even caws his way through an unashamedly silly romp about the hardship of being a crow. The latter may be at odds with his rather moody poetic reputation, but it’s indicative of how the album consistently mines captivating material from the most obscure subject matter. Mag Pai Zai should ensure that the rave reviews keep on coming, but it deserves to find a wider audience beyond his array of celebrity admirers."

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