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Album Review
Saint John Divine

Saint John Divine
by SJD


Review Date
23rd April 2015
Reviewed by
Louis Reeve

Sean James Donnelly’s new album Saint John Divine guides the listener down paths of darkness and through the everyday mundane, positing one man’s melancholy alongside an uplifting musical backdrop. This balance between its bleak thematic concerns and its celebratory nature is the album’s greatest strength as a confessional outlook on the complicated maze of modern life - one in which the light always breaks through the clouds.

Saint John Divine is a fine follow up to 2013’s Taite Music Prize winning record Elastic Wasteland. The introspective blueprint of Elastic Wasteland remains intact, however, where Elastic Wasteland based itself on solo explorations with drum machines and electronics, Saint John Divine’s full band arrangements bring collective human warmth to the table. Donnelly’s voice gently rests upon richly detailed instrumental arrangements centred on guitars, keys and softly cooing backing vocals (courtesy of Julia Deans). These arrangements remain uncluttered and serve as the optimistic counterpart to Donnelly’s direct lyrics, which despite being rather morbid are interwoven with a playful sense of humour throughout. Opener 'I Saw The Future' jibes “I saw the future summed up in a few short lines” over softly strummed guitars and strings. 'Helensville' is another highlight - a classic-rock styled arrangement accompanies Donnelly’s deadpan delivery of “another rainy day in Helensville”. His existential lyrical concerns are a key to the seamless flow of the album.

In the end, SJD offers no redemption from (or solutions for) this melancholy, strengthening the humanism of Saint John Divine. A rich and rewarding listen, the album's optimistic musical backdrop embraces these conflicts - even celebrating them as an acceptance of fate. As the chorus of 'I Wanna Be Foolish' proclaims: “God knows I want to be foolish!”. 


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