Never has an entire album or EP made it into my regular playlist rotation, but Lee MacDougall broke that record with If Walls Could Talk. Not only did I gleefully add every song to every playlist, I turned up the volume every time one of the songs queued up. This is an extended EP with ten tracks, encompassing several different styles with ease. It’s easy to see some of his greatest influences in each tune, but no one could ever say he’s a parrot. Lee MacDougall has a firm grasp on his own musical ideas and lyrics, and he deftly presents them here.
I can’t help but compare his voice to a frosty glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. While there is a sharpness–a tang, there is also a smooth sweetness even through the grittiest vocals. It’s a shock to the system when you first taste it, but refreshing nonetheless. The focus and direction are incomparable, utterly unmatched by anyone else I’ve heard. If pressed, I’d say he’s similar to Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits fame, but there is a new control and range. Also impressive are the backing vocals, which must have been contributed by Lee himself or a sibling. The harmony is full and resonant, with a specific match that doesn’t occur just anywhere.
It’s hard to choose a standout track because I just enjoy them all so much. The Star Hotel is performed with a loosely controlled raucous flavor that brings Oasis back to mind, but don’t expect to hear Liam and Noel when you listen. We can just thank them profusely for inspiring such a fun and enjoyable tune. Lee really lets loose with the vocals, and when accompanied by the organ, he really captures some of the old British Invasion feel–specifically the joyous abandon we first heard with The Animals.
Just because he can let loose and power through the rock tunes doesn’t mean he can’t handle the tenderness required for ballads. He deftly softens the tone for Stay and This Is My Story, giving us a sweet sound that still isn’t too careful. It’s particularly fun to catch some of the witty lines in otherwise serious lyrics, too. These elevate the songs just a step above the rest, bringing a smile for just a moment when you feel you should be contemplative.
What probably cemented the EP in my summer playlist are the two tracks that give a glimpse into London with love. While he doesn’t necessarily glamorize the city in any way, it’s easy to see his regard for home. Again, his voice tells the story just as well as the words do, showing us life throughout the city with London in the Summer and Sunset by the Thames. You won’t be able to resist grabbing your passport and planning a trip to see his vision of the city.
And though I claim not to have a favorite, the truth is that two of the songs probably get twice the play as the rest of them. She is a heartbreaking tune that features the piano as the driving percussion instrument. While it has a quick tempo and just a hint of the old doowop feel in places, the absence of any drums still keeps the slightly subdued feel the lyrics demand. It’s an amazing balance between the rock star inside of Lee and the words he put to the page, and as far as I’m concerned, he mastered it.
Finally, there is the fun and quirky How to Be, which is stripped down to just voice and guitar. This is the perfect presentation for such clever and inspired lyrics. There is no way anyone could listen to this song and not relate in some way. Who hasn’t experienced that awkward, uncomfortable-in-my-own-skin feeling at some point in life? And still, with that dry wit that you’ll find throughout the EP, Lee manages to make you feel okay about being just a bit weird. Really…everybody does.
Lee MacDougall will start his North American tour on August 3 in New York City at The Bitter End. Over the course of two months, he’ll appear in several major cities, including Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Nashville. You can check his schedule on his Facebook page or his website to see when he’ll be performing near you. If Walls Could Talk is also available for sale on his website, so drop by to get your copy.