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Album review: Devon Sproule & Mike O’Neill “Colours”


by Matt Caprioli

Canadian-born singer-songwriters Devon Sproule and Mike O’Neill’s first collaboration is well worth a listen, though their collaborative name  “Devon Sproule & Mike O’Neill” does not quite roll off the tongue.

Sproule and O’Neill’s first album Colours isn’t due out until September 24, though they have released some songs to the public, including the eponymous “Colours” and “You Can Go Home.”

The duo met through Sproule’s Low-Key Karaoke project, where she splices videos of herself and another singing a duet. They continued to collaborate from Sproule’s home in Austin, Texas, and O’Neill’s home in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Sproule was, as she puts it, “Born to some hippies in Canada” and raised in a rural commune in Virginia. She released her first album at 16 years old. American Songwriter has compared her to Kathleen Edwards. While her voice is equally beautiful, her lyrics on this album are not very memorable. Sproule’s voice reaches angelic heights on “Walking in the Folly,” where it is perfectly controlled. One gets an odd impression that she’s making sounds with her hands rather than something as invisibly controlled as vocal chords. She has the purr of Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame, though the music surrounding her is decidedly less rock.

O’Neill was the lead singer of the Inbreds, a Canadian band active in the 90s who received two Juno nominations and praise by the Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl. This isn’t the first collaboration for Sproule, who released previous albums with her husband Paul Curreri. Their collaborations were under the moniker “Paul and Devon.” It’s curious why Sproule and O’Neill didn’t give their own album the courtesy of brevity.

Colours would be a much more enjoyable record if “The Fire Inside” was tweaked or deleted. That 7th track sounds like a cool aunt and uncle improving something over a campfire. It’s cute and vaguely annoying. The duo takes turns at the helm. O’Neill’s stand out song may be, “Talk to You,” which features his high-pitched curious voice.

Produced by UK Tin Angel Records, the band will tour the UK extensively the first month of their album. The duo is more enjoyable live, where the synths are mute. The collaboration with O’Neill definitely pushes Sproule in a new direction, but considering her past solo albums like Upstate Songs, one wonders if she would’ve been better producing this one alone.

Album release date: September 24, 2013

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