If you are hankering for a bit of mid-period Elvis Costello with a fresh lick of paint then ‘Villain’ is just the album for you. Americana and 1960’s pop mingle effortlessly on John Shipe’s new album and his brittle voice delivers cutting asides as astutely as Costello in his prime. Yet, like Costello, he can sound all vulnerable and desperate the next moment.
Shipe writes catchy songs with the kind of lyrics in which the battered yet never outwitted underdog gets his revenge in the end. Together with producer Ehren Ebbage, who plays lap steel guitar with Portland indie band The Dimes, Shipe colours in his songs with a vibrant range of musical influences. From Sixties rock on ‘Love Belongs To Everyone’ to the Burt Bacharach strings on ‘Some Hidden Things’ to the shamelessly Country style lap steel guitar on ‘Hard To Believe’, Shipe resides over an entertaining variety show of styles held together by his distinctive voice.
Shipe mellows his delivery on ‘Hard To Believe’ where he duets with Jazz singer Halie Loren, yet his edgy voice contrasts nicely with Loren’s richer tone. Three tracks later the uptempo ‘Another Disaster’ has Shipe yelping and warbling with exasperation over a runaway girlfriend. Ever the consummate entertainer, Shipe certainly knows after seven solo albums in eleven years how to glue your ears to the speakers.
‘Villain’ is easy to listen to and contains some great lines. I love the sound of The Dimes, so having Ebbage adding a bit of the band’s magic touch to Shipe’s songs is definitely a bonus. The album is out on 1 February on Involushun Records.
Listen here to ‘Love Belongs To Everyone’