Nevahland is an encouraging release from Corcoran.
Since Two Hours Traffic, the band that Liam Corcoran fronted for over a decade, disbanded in 2013, he’s taken the creative shift in stride. Following up his 2015 EP ROM-DROM, Corcoran has self-released his solo debut album, Nevahland, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. But Nevahland has aspirations beyond a small, self-recorded and self-released solo effort. An ominous concept album, its 10 tracks are linked by an over-arching impending disaster and three couples evacuating their town. The narrative aspect of the album doesn’t dictate the music, nor is it overly obvious as you listen. The through line story is there if you listen for it, but Nevahland is otherwise a collection of charming pop songs that can be appreciated individually.
Plodding opener “Never Ever” captures the suspense and dread of this disaster in its repetitive piano and Corcoran’s disaffected vocal, sounding as though he were stunned into calm. But this first half gives way to a pre-programmed R&B beat, launching the track into DIY territory while it simultaneously begins to sound more professional with the introduction of sleek backing vocals from one of Corcoran’s many contributors. While “Never Ever” speaks to the feeling of time standing still ahead of something unfathomable, many of the songs similarly take a generic approach, foregoing specifics about characters or events and instead focusing on mood and atmosphere. “Party’s Over” sees Corcoran croon about his characters “coming back down from the thrill of the chase” and facing the reality of quotidian concerns losing their importance. The pop-rock offering “Tick Tock” then stresses the time crunch these characters are under to escape.
Given the subject matter, one might expect Nevahland to be nearly 40 minutes of dread and brooding music. Corcoran offers up quite the opposite. The bulk of these tracks are either piano ballads, guitar-fueled country pop or alt rock songs. Even tracks that begin ominously eek out upbeat moments. There are a handful of rollicking numbers, such as “Tick Tock,” that opt for pop despite their themes. “About Time” is a smooth blend of rhythmic pop and balladic vocals from Corcoran, a great example of a mid-tempo track on the album. But it’s the constant alternating between styles and tempos that gives Nevahland momentum. Corcoran can go from bright indie guitars on “Tick Tock” to an atmospheric instrumental with “Stargazing.” The downtempo country of “Out of This World 2,” which sends Corcoran’s characters out on the road hoping they can pay for gas to drive farther and farther away, and the lovesick country of “You Must Love Somebody” lead immediately into the sparse piano ballad “Opposite Vultures.”
On tracks like “Opposite Vultures” and “About Time,” Corcoran almost sounds like fellow Canadian Tobias Jesso, Jr. But the former Two Hours Traffic frontman hasn’t lost his ability to bridge genres and lift up pop and indie rock tracks with his clear voice. Album highlight “Tick Tock” recalls the propulsive guitar and bright vocals of Two Hours Traffic’s Little Jabs classic “Heroes of the Sidewalk.” If nothing else, what’s clear is that Corcoran still has a knack for catchy hooks.
While “Tick Tock,” “About Time” and “Good Days and Bad” fit into the overall narrative and, more importantly, are sharp indie rock tracks, a few too many songs on Nevahland fail to distinguish themselves and stretch the concept album connection. There are obvious signs that this solo project will take time to grow into, but Nevahland is an encouraging release from Corcoran.