Michael MacLennan
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Michael MacLennan

Dublin, Leinster, Ireland | INDIE

Dublin, Leinster, Ireland | INDIE
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter

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"Wolves Album Review"

Michael MacLennan is a Scottish singer-songwriter and acclaimed pianist who was originally brought up in a small higlands village, he’s been playing the piano since the tender age of seven. Michael then attended the Royal College Of Music, performing live seven days a week and writing new songs every day for a year. Michael then moved to London where he caught the attention of Rod Stewart when he was busking one of Stewarts own compositions.

Michael returned to his native Scotland and put all his experience to good use by writing and recording his debut album, Wolves whilst continuing to perform all over Scotland. Tracks from a previously released EP and his recent single To The Fire have picked up radio play across Scotland and England even picking up interest from the likes of Q Radio, whilst his material has also received a great deal of attention from Scotland’s best selling author, Christopher Brookmyre among others.

Putting on Wolves, it’s easy to hear why MacLennan has received so many plaudits, he writes instrumentally lush, mature songs full of great passion and sophistication. Michael’s voice is a goregous rich croon, whilst his acompanying piano is simply a joy to be heard.

The album opens with the beautiful mood setting Fall Down On Me, opening with a solo piano before Michael add’s his gorgeous aching vocals, that simply pour from the speakers, as he adds further instrumentation to further pepper his already stunning composition. From such a mesmerising opening salvo Michael continues to deliver create infectious melodies, evocative piano, lush instrumentation, all topped off with soaring heartfelt vocal refrains that tear at the heartstrings.

Highlights come thick and fast from the aforementioned single To The Fire to the subtle delights of Avalanche and the wonderful harmonyenriched, soaring title track. How Come showcases a different, funkier side to Michael’s material, Rhodes piano and electric guitars combine to create a stunning 70's styled upbeat funk rocker. Whilst The Island is a breathtaking ballad complete with tasteful electric guitar, beautiful backing vocals and a gorgeous delivery that even the most hardened of cynics can’t deny. And it’s impossible to write a review of Wolves without mentioning the evocative closing number, The Old Tree, a gorgeous ballad featuring Michael alone at his piano, wearing his heart on his sleeve and delivering an aching vocal that makes you tingle from head to foot.

Wolves is one of those albums you can really lose yourself in, Michael’s velvety vocals and songwriting is dazzling and you find yourself just sitting back and listening intently soaking up every note, every vowel. The eleven track affair is a true delight from start to finish, if you enjoy flawless heartfelt odes, impeccable emotive compositions and a spellbinding vocal you’re going to love Wolves.

Rhythm & Booze Rating 9 - Rhythm and Booze


"Wolves Album Review"

Wolves from Scottish pianist and singer songwriter Michael MacLennan is a sneaky little collection of songs. First listen, maybe two and one is aware of the quality and strength of the songwriting on show and its realisation but maybe not initially bowled over by uniqueness or originality. But a couple more plays and one finds oneself completely wrapped up in the album’s warm charms, pleasured by its well crafted arrangements and absorbed by the display of infectious melodies and catchy songs.

From the secluded stark peace of Nethy Bridge, MacLennan having been playing the piano from the age of seven won a place at the Royal College of Music. Dedication and practice is obviously not a weak part of his personality either, as MacLennan obtaining and playing gigs in London 7 days a week, writing two songs a day for a year, and the obvious concentrated carefully created songs on Wolves prove. Returning to Scotland MacLennan recorded the album across 2010 to the following year as well as playing shows across his homeland. Working with many new producers making a name for themselves, he found something special in particular with Craig Ross and Garry Boyle. The trio coming together to bring something extra and defined to Wolves, their understanding and fluid collaboration giving an ease and depth to the album.

Each track within the album is understandably piano led but there is much more to songs with contributions from a varied array of fine musicians adding to the creativity, only the closing and deeply touching ballad ‘The Old Tree’ finds MacLennan and piano alone. There is a good variety to the album with the afore mentioned sombre ballad and another in the reflective title track placed alongside the vibrant likes of ‘Fall Down On Me’ and the jazz pop ‘How Come’ which comes with the same flavour of his previous EP History from 2009.

Musically the songs are undemanding but perfectly crafted with a touch and understanding that is understated allowing for MacLennan’s lyrically prowess and excellent voice to shine and engage. It is hard to say he has a distinctive voice compared to other similar artists grabbing headlines and ears but there is a natural flow and instinctive expression to his delivery that makes MacLennan preferable to listen to than most, and with songs of a shining calibre Wolves a standout album.

Personal preferences will vary to the best tracks on show within the album but there is a trio of consecutive tracks that simply mesmerise the senses on every level. First is ‘Keep A Light On’ a remembrance of desires, passion and heartache it is a stirring track that all can easily relate to. It brings a nod and smile, maybe an ache too as MacLennan reveals its tale backed by the wonderful vocals of Catherine Ward. This is followed by the first single from the album, ‘To The Fire’. From a emotive piano and voice opening the track expands into a heartfelt statement that wraps around the senses wonderfully. The track is mesmeric, MacLennan at his most expressive and the music the perfect company to his piano play to wrap the listener up in a provoking yet uplifting track.

The third track is the best of all, a deeply emotive ballad that kind of builds like the title suggests. ‘Avalanche’ floats in on piano and voice once more, tugging on emotions. A subtle bass comes in as company before the song opens into a graceful and sweeping chorus. The song is beautiful, evocative and a caress upon the ear. Though it never reaches the suggested overwhelming proportions of its title the thick luxury it reaches is fully and welcomingly consuming.

The rest of the album is less assuming and at times a little lost against these tracks though all of a high quality and moments like the wonderful violin within the social/political comment of ‘State Of Affairs’ deeply satisfying. Wolves is a must for all who wish a singer songwriter with something extra. Michael MacLennan is not particularly edgy but his music has something just as powerful, heart. - Ringmaster Review


"Wolves Album Review"

Scottish pianist and singer-songwriter, Michael MacLennan, is from the Highlands. Music may be in his roots and must be in his blood. He began playing the piano at seven and went on to attend the Royal College of Music, where he performed nightly and wrote two compositions a day for an entire year. It’s no wonder that the songs on his debut, ‘Wolves’, are so brilliant.

MacLennan even got attention from Rod Stewart one evening in a London pub, when he was playing a cover tune. His profound storytelling and sophisticated voice draws comparisons to Billy Joel and Jackson Browne.

‘Fall Down on Me’ features MacLennan’s warm resonance and vulnerable, vocal ache as it washes atop his gospel-like piano. “And the night time is so much better,” he sings, in a sonnet which can’t make up its mind if it’s happy or sad – because of his ironic optimism during an unfaltering presentation of ideas.

‘Keep a Light On’ has some wonderful thoughts. “My head is on its way to where I left her on her own.” In this song, a growing sense of restlessness develops as he struggles with wanderlust and promise of new love - “Now I’m in my hotel with a bag upon my bed…” Like other songs on this CD, this one features an incredibly, well-paced story line.

Not surprisingly, ‘To the Fire’ has received major airplay in the UK; it’s easy to see why.
It is a psalm-saturated plea: “All around it looks like the world is dying tonight.” An old man is described elsewhere on it as “working his whole life and won’t be back there again…” It is a glorious testimonial to an often-unfair world.

‘Avalanche’ is solemn, simple and thought provoking. “I can’t stop thinking about her,” MacLennan saunters. This mesmerizing song drifts magically through a myriad of moods culminating in this infectious hook: “See how that snow slides?/Let’s just get lost inside…”

‘How Come’ is more prophetic. It is funk with a twist of desperation: “Got your foot in the door, but it closes anyway.” It is an especially nice canvas for a bold keyboard solo.

‘Wolves’ is immensely gripping, especially the spiraling coda. “They’re snapping at my heels, but I won’t let them bite,” he sings, with rugged gravitas.

‘The Fader’ is a timely, transitional song, a bit lighter in tempo, yet still powerful lyrically, though more orchestrated than the rest.

‘The Island’ is another ode to isolation with it lyrics of “To feel that silence when you went away, to be behind that closing door…” and “Oh, angels, won’t you sing to me, once more?” It is another classic, which explores a tableau of conflicting emotions. ‘The Island’ gathers strength by virtue of blistering guitar and MacLennan’s unparalleled, fantastic piano.

‘State of Affairs’ is another thinking man’s song. “Always fighting with a hole in the wall” it begins. His temper flares: “Fat cats running around in a Rolls Royce while you’re bleeding.” This exciting arrangement is in a constant state of unpredictable flux. It’s the tale of a high-wired, breadwinner perplexed by the sea of greed, which sadly surrounds him.

‘The Painter’ is as lovely as a Chopin ballad or a Renaissance portrait. The ambitious songwriter weaves the story of a struggling artisan paralysed by dashed hopes and infrequent glimmers of contentment. “The permanent observer” is how MacLennan describes his complex protagonist, but as we come to grips with the painter’s angst, the songwriter leavens the playing field with love: “I want to be the one she needs the most.”
Spectacular keys, striking strings and a clear, humane motive are at the roots of this gorgeous, transformative composition.

‘The Old Tree’ closes the album. This is another delightfully, stripped down rendering, in which MacLennan unabashedly bares his soul for all to see, and what we see is a fiercely, talented wordsmith, seasoned piano man and old school composer.

‘Wolves’ is a marvel. It is not to be missed. - Indie Music Magazine


"Wolves Album Review"

If found listening to 'Wolves' a little disconcerting. As a rule the debut albums I get to listen to are works in progress that show promise but are a little rough around the edges. Michael Maclennan skipped this and has delivered a fully formed, independently released album chock-a-block of piano led, radio friendly, power pop hits (yes, 'hits', individual tracks that people will buy in large quantities).

The real beauty of Wolves is that Maclennan has been able to get the ratio of the rocky tracks ('Keep A Light', 'Fader'), the ballads ('Old Tree', 'Avalanche') and the big anthems ('Fall On', 'Wolves') without it ever feeling formulaic. There is the odd moment that does not stand up to repeated listening; the shimmery guitar on 'The Island', for example, but it may well be that 'How Come' is simply too jazzy for my ears.

It will not take much for Maclennan to be big; a decent support slot on national tour, a couple appearances at the bigger festivals this summer should be enough. I'd recommend getting to see him at a small venue before it is too late.

John 'The Jacket' Hawes - Fatea Records Reviews


"Musician tipped £50 by Rod Stewart features on Hollyoaks"

A song by a Highlands musician who was once tipped £50 by Rod Stewart has been played on Channel 4's soap Hollyoaks.

Michael Maclennan, 29, from Grantown-on-Spey, studied at London's Royal College of Music and now lives in Dublin.

Keep A Light On, a track from his debut album Wolves, featured on a recent episode of Hollyoaks.

After leaving college, Maclennan played gigs in London. Following one performance he was praised by Stewart.

The legendary singer also left the Highlands singer-songwriter with £50.

Wolves is a family affair.

Maclennan's younger brother Andrew and sister Catherine Ward also feature on tracks along with drummer Sam McLeod, also from Grantown-on-Spey, and bass player Dougie Edwards, from nearby Carrbridge.

Another Grantown-on-Spey resident, Stuart Mackellar, designed the album's artwork and its pictures were taken by Maclennan's brother-in-law Gerry Ward.

'Emerging talent'

Maclennan said: "I am very proud of the album and the early reviews have been really positive, which is fantastic.

"There has been interest from television and film producers as well, and the new single Keep a Light On was played on Hollyoaks a couple of weeks ago." - BBC News


Discography

Michael MacLennan:
The Ilen Sessions (2006).
History EP (2009).
To The Fire - Single (2011)
Wolves (2012)

Easy Tigers:
Songs From The Sun Room (2010)

The Kat Healy Music Club
Broken Bones - Single (2011)

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Bio

Michael MacLennan is a pianist and singer-songwriter. His debut studio album 'Wolves' was released in February 2012 to critical acclaim. Described by Indie Music Magazine as a "profound and brilliant debut album", Wolves is a collection of 11 songs which showcase an ability to combine heartfelt and topical lyrics together with powerful, soaring music. The album varies from the political 'To The Fire' to the poignant ballad of 'Avalanche' in a style influenced by his many musical heroes but in the end undoubtably his own.

First single from the album 'To The Fire' picked up plays on BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Bristol, BBC Radio Foyle, Q Radio, Dublin City FM, Moray Firth Radio and more.

"Michael Maclennan's songs are as timeless as they are heartfelt, an old-school piano-fighter who allies true craft to infectious passion in his music." Christopher Brookmyre, Best-selling Scottish author, music fan.

"Jaw droppingly good on the show, I had to stop what I was doing and turn up the radio. Stunning! The first time I've done that in a long time" Pennie Latin, Senior Producer, BBC Radio Scotland.