Conor Mason
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Conor Mason

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Before listening to Derry native Conor Mason's third album, I gave his first two another spin. And although there's some progression from 2007's Let It Unfold to 2009's When It's Over, these home-recorded efforts are effectively love letters to Elliott Smith, trapped in a soft-hush, same-pace, lo-fi hinterland. The trumpet notes that herald the start of Misunderstood, Standstill's opening track, are therefore particularly welcome, followed as they are by a series of lovely chord patterns driven by a drums/bass/piano rhythm section and topped by a shyly melodic vocal that's more Lightning Seeds than Portland troubadour. And so it continues to expand across 10 wonderful songs. Backing-vocal sighs mirror harmonica phrases on Lights; a church-like organ adds architectural space to Words before a Mumford skiffle-with-strings takes over. The root influence of Smith still looms over the acoustic singer-songwriter elements of Mason's work, but now he has discovered wider musical textures that match the seductive melancholy of his lyrics and singing style. - The Herald Scotland


Conor Mason’s third album Standstill is a 10-track journey through intimacy and confessions. There is nothing more powerful than honesty in music; and this Conor Mason seems to know very well. Opener Misunderstood, mixing vulnerability and pride, is a terrific example of this; and as Conor says “I don’t need a stamp of approval from anyone, you can take it or leave it”, we feel more than happy to grant him that approval, hoping he reluctantly accepts it. As the record goes on you realise the underlying theme here may well be sheer beauty. 5 AM is a dive through a woozy sea of reverb, subtle and powerful at the same time, a little Elliott Smith and a little Travis too. A personal favourite is second-to-last In The Doorway, a gorgeous Badly-Drawn-Boyish ballad of disillusion, painted with simple image-poetry. This all climaxes during the finale: A Picture of Farewell is a reminder of all that’s so good about this record, and immediately makes you want to press the replay button. Standstill is a great story told in the right way, and it doesn’t get much better than that. - AAA music


So I’d say a really good record if you like your troubadours young and wide-eyed. Good enough to knock cynical old me into reviewing at any rate.

Now this is something special. Normally I’m not really into melancholy, soulful pop, especially done by those much younger than me… (I feel it’s just a question of agendas changing as you get older, not the genre per se) but this lad has something of the “Roddy Frames” about him – best of all – despite the cosy, almost clinging nature of some of the arrangements and the words (girl – boy – pining, big metaphors, blah blah), he wins you over with in each track with a soft, entreating vocal take that doesn’t sound affected or forced. His voice is pleasing, simple and unaffected, and it gets you in every song. There’s a feeling that this record could have been made in 1963 or 1984, too. It has that crystalline feeling of floating above the surface of things.

The opener Misunderstood has a nice tensile quality, sentimental it is, but not too maudlin or well, wet. Without sounding like a right patronising prick I find that there’s a bracing sentimentality that you only really experience from listening to Scottish or Irish artists, a sort of pastoral soul-music with a dash of grit about it. And this helps Conor Mason in spades. Lights tails out with a marvellously underplayed chorus – but it’s his voice again that wins you over, soft as a good malt - despite the schmaltz of the strings, despite the sometimes obvious chorus - it’s got that great knack of allowing the listener to relax and suspend disbelief and to fall for that old pop trick once again. Out of the Blue has enough of that Celtic-American country skip about it, as well as some of that “happy lament” feel that Edwyn and Roddy perfected by the end of the track. The record reminds me of Electric Soft Parade too, with its rare but addictive knack of making good, multidimensional pop despite the subject matter.

The titles are melancholy, all about solitude it seems or times of day when you are normally alone or feel alone. Last to Leave, Sundown, In the Doorway etc., etc… It’s all heartstring tugging stuff. Of course he’s singing to his girl throughout this record and all his feelings are on his sleeve but it’s still effective. Last to Leave and In The Doorway are particularly good, the arrangements are stripped back allowing the organ and brass to lend a warm tone, which is a brilliant counterpoint to the whispered vox.

So I’d say a really good record if you like your troubadours young and wide-eyed. Good enough to knock cynical old me into reviewing at any rate. I still wager that the best record in this genre is undoubtedly Hope & Despair but then, I was 19 pushing 20 when that came out, and these things about love and stuff meant so much more then.

RICHARD FOSTER - Incendiary Magazine


CONOR MASON is a singer/songwriter from Derry in N. Ireland and he's set to release his third album in March. His first two LPs (2007's 'Let It Unfold' and '09's 'When It's Over') were home-recorded and distributed over the internet but they did enough to win CONOR a solid reputation throughout the province. The new album is called 'Standstill' and though it's a "bigger" effort it still has a naive, home-grown quality about it.

The music on the 10 tracker has a folksy rock feel to it though there's a soulful undertow to proceedings. Lyrically, there's a gentle, almost Celtic mysticism about things... though it's all a deal lighter and more accessible than the work of, say, VAN MORRISON. Fans of NEIL YOUNG will find lots to like here too – especially the album's title track.

Bill Buckley - Soul and Jazz


SUbba-Cultcha FEB 2012

The main problem facing the archetypal singer-songwriter these days is the ridiculous abundance of them. There’s a ton of them out there, glued to their acoustic guitars and desperately hoping someone somewhere will compare them to Elliot Smith and then off they go into the sun and superstardom. Unfortunately it isn’t quite as simple as that; as Radiohead succinctly put it on Pablo Honey – anyone can play guitar. What everyone can’t do is write a decent song, let alone a whole album, so here the cream inevitably rises.

Conor Mason’s first release-proper, i.e. not from his bedroom, comes through boutique Scottish label Armellodie Records on March 19th and is titled Standstil.l It’s as you’d expect, a man and his guitar embellished a bit here and there with trumpet and piano, but fairly run of the mill, inoffensive and quite pleasant stuff. ‘Misunderstood’ nods towards Brendan Benson, and throughout other influences surface – the Flaming Lips, Grandaddy, that kinda thing. Mason has a soft, sleepy voice which integrates well with the instrumentation providing the bedrock for him to express his vocals upon. He’s certainly got an ear for a tune and arrangement and knows how to craft his songs, but lacks the edge the likes of Elliot Smith had, that unidentifiable something which added an attitude and vulnerability to his music that you either have or haven’t got.

Mason has seemingly been garnering some support in his native Northern Island and it wouldn’t be too surprising if that were to seep out over here too with a little bit of radio or media support. He certainly deserves a little recognition for what is, all things considered, a pretty good album.

Steven Fanning
- Subba-Cultcha


Possibly the most beautiful song we have had at BotR and the highest rated track this month. This is just one of those songs that scream instant classic. While the song would have accomplished its task with just the vocals and acoustic guitar, Mason’s use of subdued strings and other instrumentation add a level of comfort to the heartfelt lyrics. His vocals sound almost like a whisper, which pulls you in for a closer listen. This one is an absolute winner.
- Victor Alfieri (on Standstill)


Derryman Conor Mason was one of the numerous shining lights from this years HWCH festival in Dublin, of course this was of no surprise to anyone heard his 2009 debut When It’s Over prior to the show.

His performance got across the sheer warmth his sweet soft music possesses, due in no small way to the touching melodic harmonies, distinctive vocal delivery and lyrical strength. There is something inherently familiar here while remaining fresh and extrinsic too – think of a blend of sensibilities from The Basement/Matthew Jay.

His musical journey has so far involved now defunct band Gentle Ben before deciding to go it alone, a 3 stint in Glasgow where he won both the ‘XFM Unsigned’ competition and the monthly ’Your Sound’ showdown at King Tuts venue. This lead to a slot at the Hydro Connect Music Festival, playing alongside artists like Elbow, Sigur Ros, the Coral and Gomez.

Conor is currently putting the finishing touches to his new album which is penned for release before the end of the year. - Barry Gruff


You know how it is - or at least you will if you are a true music lover - when you hear an interesting live act and are suitably impressed. The symptoms are always the same. Get home, get on the Internet and get out the credit card as there is (or hopefully are) CDs to be bought. This was the case after recent exposure to the live talents of Derry's - now Glasgow based - Conor Mason.

The songs fall into a similar vein but that turns out to be part of their appeal. Quality is so consistent that you can drop into the album anywhere and find something to like. "Long Time Gone" has that neat, super smooth countrified Eagles sound. "Luck" had a sweet quirkiness that bares favourable comparison to the music of Glasgow's soon to be legendary Metro-gnomes. The album's killer track, however, is the laidback and cool but at the same time almost funky "Falling out of Touch". It is truly a song so good that it should be on vinyl and "Before You Return" sits especially well next to it. You are probably getting the picture now. Conor Mason is giving us a quality collection of slightly offbeat but very commercial songs that cunningly worm their way into your affections.

In summary, quietly compelling is the phrase we are looking for to describe this album. The songs hook you and reel you in without making any kind of disturbance. Indeed, Conor Mason's music might, on first exposure, not actually make much of an impression on your psyche but it is more than a bit classy. No fuss, no bother but plenty of talent on show once you take a serious listen - Bluesbunny


Once again, welcome to the free album of the week post. This week’s offering is the debut album of Conor Mason, a wonderful songwriter originally from Derry that currently resides in Glasgow. “Let It Unfold” documents the first tentative steps of Mason towards musical brilliance.

Conor is a singer songwriter in the true sense of the word- on this album he doesn’t give into the temptation of just hammering out a few chords and singing along. Every song has a clearly sculpted melody and structure that includes bass and lead guitar as well as a pretty acoustic guitar line. With the drum machine and the desire to mess things up a little the comparisons to David Kitt are pretty darn obvious, but in some respects he manages to outKitt the Kittster.

The vocals are restrained and quiet, rather like the shy guy at a party instead of the boisterous shouts of the typical singer songwriter (Damien Rice, I’m looking at you). The lyrics can be lacking at times but apart from this, you can safely mention Elliott Smith and Conor Mason in the same breath: a wonderful ear for catchy and memorable tunes, lovely harmonies and a desire for complex songs. The gorgeous waltz that is “Nothing To Say” sticks in your head- there’s trumpets, a repetitive drum beat, lovely, unassuming vocals (with half hearted lyrics) and a wonderful guitar part. It wouldn’t be out of place on XO: indeed, it wouldn’t be out of place in Grey’s Anatomy.

“Let it Unfold”, the title track, slows things down a bit. A repeating guitar line, backing vocals that are reminiscent of Bon Iver and something unmistakeably wonderful that captivates the listener. Mason doesn’t waste words: indeed the chorus consists of the words “let it unfold, let it unfold” repeated over and over again, and it’s stunning.

There really isn’t a filler track on this album. Admittedly, it’s more of a demo than a properly produced album and it does show at times. However, the whole lo fi thing makes “Let it Unfold” just a teeny bit more intimate, especially on tracks such as “Save A Line” that could so easily be over produced. A great debut that promises a lot more.

Download album - Patrick (Secret Fireworks)



So I wandered in about two songs into the first guy's set, Conor Mason, and got busy scoping the crowd and the venue. We're in a conservatory, laid out with rows of chairs reminiscent of Sunday School. I was being distracted by flashing lights and poorly placed pot plants, but caught the odd glimpse of genius from the stage.

He was sat on a deck chair with semi-acoustic guitar and a harmonica round his neck. The sound in here is amazing, he was barely whispering but it came through clear and beautiful. Winsom and drify, caught floating through a dream. - Indie Eyespy


Conor Mason is on next. With his combat jacket, he looks like a young Alan Alda. Bluesbunny has seen him before and consequently knows his repertoire well. "Luck" shows that he can carry a tune. He sings in an understated way with little way of drama but there is that something special about his voice that grabs your attention. Of his repertoire, "Falling out of Touch" is one of those songs that you just wish you had written yourself. A very polished performance that gets a good response from the compact and bijou audience. He ends on "Backing a Lost Cause". Sounding much bigger than one man and his guitar should, Conor Mason is no lost cause. - Bluesbunny


The music is so emotionally piercing, so lovely sounding. From Derry, via Glasgow and your broadband tubes, it's the very thing for those indifferent August blues.

Conor Mason tends to whisper when others holler, but he voices it well. His songs crack open like fortune cookies, full of wise little comments, ideas to gather and consider. "It's not what it seems, how it should be," he murmurs on 'Luck' as we wait for the outcome, willing the guy to get a decent roll of the dice.

The tunes are full of sweet patterns, reminders of Paul McCartney circa 'A Hard Day's Night' or maybe Elliott Smith, playing it woefully true on 'Either/Or'. Hence the fluttering chorus of 'Better Than Nothing' and the scraps of compensation in the lyric. It's not exactly how Conor wanted it to be, but hey, we suspected that earlier.

The harmonica tootles in a forlorn way, the backing vocals make with sympathetic "whoahs" and a piano figure wibbles in the background. The lyrics allude to self-destruction and we hope that Conor isn't unusually fixated by the kind of lifestyle that Ma Cobain called "that stupid club". Because this music deserves to endure, truly.
- Stuart Baillie


Discography

Albums

Conor Mason - Standstill (March,2012)
Conor mason - When Its Over (Antimatter Music, 2009)
Conor Mason - Let it Unfold (self release, 2005)

Singles

Conor Mason - Falling Out Of Touch (Anitmatter Music)

Photos

Bio

Conor Mason took to playing music from a very young age.
Learning classical piano at the age of 8 he soon progressed to a variety of other instruments.
The efforts to self teach himself drums and guitar would later pay off to become the basis of his songwriting.

On leaving school Conor followed a music production course at a local college where he learned the techniques of writing and recording music. At this time, most of Conors time was taken up writing songs for and playing in local band ‘Gentle Ben’. With this newly acquired knowledge, some software, and a computer, Conor went to work on his first batch of solo songs and has never looked back.

It wasn't long before people were taking notice of Conor's music. His song ‘Circles’ was one of ten songs of the year in the BBC Across The Line show in N. Ireland, who also commissioned a video for ‘Better Than Nothing’ as part of the TV version of their show.

During 3 years living in Glasgow, Conor gigged relentlessly, won both the XFM Unsigned competition and the monthly 'Your Sound' showdown at King Tuts. This lead to a slot at the Hydro Connect Music Festival, which featured artists like Elbow, Sigur Ros, the Coral and Gomez.
In 2009, Conor released his debut album on Glasgow independent, Antimatter Music.

More recently, Conor has put in great performances at Scotland's Go North and Ireland's 'Hard Working Class Heroes' showcase festivals, as well as the IMRO showcase tour and support slots including Brendan Benson.
Conor is currently preparing for the release of his new album 'Standstill' in March next year on Armellodie Records. More tour dates are currently being prepared for Early next year to promote the album.
With such stunning songwriting consistency, and the sheer warmth of every performance, we look forward to hearing (and seeing) what Conor does next.