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Drowsy - Growing Green

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Artist: Drowsy

Album: Growing Green

Label: FatCat

Review date: Jun. 14, 2005

"You are all whores, and I hate you all" - a lyric like this sounds like the cynical view of a grizzled studio hand, let loose at long last to cut a record of his own after years of servitude. Instead, it's the sentiment that 22-year-old Finn Mauri Heikkinen chooses to begin Growing Green, his debut full-length as Drowsy. Singing in a raspy growl against a hard plucked acoustic guitar, Heikkinen initially sounds hell bent on taking the listener to some of the darker places in his young soul. "Some Cursing," however, is merely one of the many voices and styles he models throughout the 14 songs that make up his remarkably scattered first record.

Many a word has been dedicated recently to the burgeoning free-folk scene in Finland, but Heikkinen establishes his roots in more classic, confessional singer songwriter modes, with sparse piano or guitar accompaniment dominating the backing tracks for his ever changing vocals. "Harmless," with its reverb soaked piano chords and somber melody, recalls Third/Sister Lovers-era Big Star, all laconic tension with darker underpinnings and little release. "Careless Me" positively skips in comparison, with lazy, gentle acoustic strums and a wheezy accordion gradually building to match the nursery rhymes in his lyrical patterns. "I Watch the Sky" is another winner, with piano and guitar evoking a loose Country feel that works surprisingly well in the context of all that's passed before it.

The proceedings become increasingly problematic as the album wears on, however, with songs becoming genre exercises akin to parody, despite Heikkinen's efforts for spot-on re-creation. "Cryosleep" approximates somnambulant indie rock, whereas "I Died of Death" is either an unfunny knock against American Country’s whiskey-drowned/smoke-choked vocals or an overly earnest attempt on Heikkinen's part – either way he's got a ways to go. While Heikkinen possesses a wealth of technical talent, he still needs to figure out a few tricks to truly emulate the types of haunting songwriters (Alex Chilton, Skip Spence, Tom Waits, etc.) that he so obviously admires.

As it stands, Growing Green is a flawed first from a young tunesmith. The songs collected here were recorded over the course of a few years as their creator shrugged off adolescence, which seems to be the likely explanation for the lack of coherence. While it is definitely a challenge to make it through Drowsy's debut from front to back, there are enough solid moments scattered throughout to merit future attention when his hue ripens to more robust colors.

By Michael Crumsho

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