Newton Faulkner’s fourth album Studio Zoo feels a little self-indulgent, and so it should. Faulkner took a DIY approach to this record and produced it on his own whilst live-streaming the recording process from his home studio to fans 24/7. With a couple of number one albums under his belt and Studio Zoo following on in quick succession from his last record, a lot was expected of the artist to produce something that lived up to his previous work. Though, at times, it seems like the expectation of the concept for the project overshadows the actual content, it is refreshing to listen to an album that is stripped back to the bare minimum in production efforts.
Sticking true to what he knows, the album has a chilled acoustic vibe with nostalgic lyrics and scattered rhythms. Though some tracks feel a little like they’re filling dead space, amongst the wallowing melodies can be found some true gems which are a perfect reflection of Faulkner’s unique style. Tracks such as ‘Indecisive’ and ‘Losing Ground’ introduce a welcome lift in tempo and ‘Lay Down’ shows off some beautiful acoustic work in an effortless display of Faulkner’s strengths. However, it seems that some fans may be a little underwhelmed with the album. The tone can sometimes slip into the depressive, with opener ‘Where To Start’ setting the precedent for the self-pitying demeanour with lyrics ‘Enough is enough / I don’t need nobody.’ Nonetheless, the classic acoustic Faulkner sound remains, and so fulfils what is expected of the artist – it just doesn’t surpass it.
This may not be the type of ground-breaking record that Faulkner is known for but it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as a bit of a play around in the studio. In a music industry that has been infiltrated by the digital, the technological, Studio Zoo reminds us that there is still music out there that is created purely for the sake of music. Where it lacks in intricate arrangement it makes up for in heart, and the simplicity of what the artist has done here is where the beauty of the record lies. Though Studio Zoo will not be known for breaking any musical glass ceilings it is a personal and experimental record that cannot be challenged on its raw and honest soul.