Alice Signal Fires is the brainchild of 17 year old Declan McCrory, a startlingly bright new talent from Belfast/Caryduff. McCrory has enlisted his older brother Conor (all of 21 himself) and various friends, including their producer Lee McMahon—who plays drums on the set—to give life to eight lovely, folk-tinged tracks that display a maturity and depth well beyond the years of their composer.
The songs on Ghost—which you can stream on Soundcloud—from the spare guitar and vocals-only of “Raise The Dead” to the indie-rock crunch of “March 18th”, never waver in their intelligence and intensity. McCrory’s powerful, raspy voice recalls the urgency of Mike Scott’s and has a winning soul and vulnerability to it.
That voice is at full power on the title track, which also leads off the album. McCrory sings soft and gentle through the first part of the song—which features evocative strings that sweetly underpin the acoustic guitar—only to ramp up the intensity on the second, electric section of the song.
McCrory’s lyrics are painterly and full of powerful images, such as on “Ghost”: “I can hear this house howling/I can feel time passing/I can hear ghosts howling/And my short-lived feeling fades away eventually”. McCrory, like few lyricists I have heard, expertly captures fleeting states of mind and brings them to life.
Though Alice Signal Fire’s musical approach generally sticks to familiar riffs and song structures—be they acoustic or electric-based—the energy and passion of the players transcends any possibility of falling into cliché.
Aside from the strings on the title track and on the album closer—the fittingly titled “Starting Gun”—the band also add piano to “Consolation Prize” and “Phantoms”, which helps both songs reach emotional highs they might not otherwise have—especially with the dramatic key change that ends “Phantoms”.
The band not only creates lasting images through the lyrics, but the music always supports and enhances the pictures that McCrory wants us to see. A good example of how the group immaculately melds the music and lyrics comes on the restless shuffle and open chording of “Pacing”. That restless mood is then given voice, “Pacing through this town like I’m good and half asleep/Remember when I was a child chasing pigeons through these streets” in a wonderfully cinematic way.
Alice Signal Fires’ deep, intense music is yet another example of how this upcoming generation of musicians are taking cues from the past, but making music that is distinctly their own.
Alice Signal Fires Online: