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    Monday, August 06, 2007

    It's winter again and New York's been broken

    Photo by Teddy Maki

    New York is a ghost town. Maybe not aerially or in the swells of a Midtown crush or the traffic jam of subway bodies. But once you peel back the surface, the city will reveal its desolate veins and haunted hearts. Even the most beautiful streets will carry a tinge of sadness. Every weathered brick and crumbling wall will hint at a sordid story. The third-rail rats and skittish roaches will suggest an underworld just under our feet. It’ll confirm we're the most populous city in America and probably also its loneliest.

    Luckily, Martin Walker, a Brooklynite expatriated from London, is a ghost-writer. He sings in the language of the languishing, his voice as deeply steeped in melancholia as his subjects. His album, Nylon, is full of sad, soft-edged elegies. Sometimes, the specters are implied in weighty verses like, “Remorse is for the bees, my friend/ Regret is for the orchard/ This fruit has gone to ferment now/ We’re drunk but not hung over.” At other moments, they’re practically literal, such as on the title track. There, Walker’s daughter Dorothy sings of London Bridge falling down in a way that feels unsettling and eerie. The remaining songs split the difference, but they're almost all overcast with the looming shadows of death, finality, mortality and farewells.

    Walker’s forthcoming about the other ghosts that inform his work, that is, the lingering influence of what came before. He cites Lou Reed’s Berlin as a guiding force and readily and rightfully compares his sound to Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave. Like those men, he has a tendency to position himself as an outsider and an isolationist, a fellow observer of fallen angels. Like them, he writes at times of women, alcohol and politics, but what resonates most loudly is the deep voice and the deeper depression.

    If New York is a deserted island full of eight million people, what hope does one man have? Walker, as if to stem the tide of surrender, does admit, “This fervent atheist does pray.” But throughout Nylon, the darkness still reliably finds its way in, via crevices and keyholes, up fire escapes and transmitted between lips. It sets an ideal mood for these slow-burning night-songs, where every minor chord strikes a nerve and the piano always sounds possessed.

    * MP3: "Fools" - Martin Walker from Nylon
    * MP3: "We Are All One" - Martin Walker from Nylon [Buy it]
    * Website: Martin Walker
    * MySpace: Martin Walker

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