James Irwin

'Unreal' (album stream)

BY Sarah MurphyPublished Jan 19, 2015

Following a dramatic reinvention of his sound, James Irwin is ready to unveil his second full-length album Unreal, and you can listen to it hear first on Exclaim.ca.
Moving away from the folky vibe of his debut Western Transport, Irwin has injected a lo-fi electro quality into his new material. In the artist's own words: "Unreal is all about rubbery hooks, soap box vocals, and slow groove, with the nightclub vibes of a weird dream."
That feel begins immediately with "Everything Passed Me By" and carries through the album. Tracks like "Face Value," "Michigan Miami" and "Walls Around Nothing" are awash in synthetic sounds, but the lyrics remain genuine and the vocals sincere throughout the record.
Irwin maintained complete control over the album, engineering and playing almost everything, meticulously layering sound atop sound and piecing together the final product. He did get some help laying down backing tracks from his former band the Moment.
"It's a fiction, a studio-as-instrument album through and through, where the tired line between synthetic and organic is beside the point," reads a press release about the new record. "It oscillates between maximal and minimal with choral layers of harmonies and synths … giving way to sparse moments of focus and simplicity."
Each song is written from a different character's perspective, giving Irwin the opportunity to explore a wide range of ideas. The same press release amusingly notes: "He sounds at times like a crankier Paul Simon, a deflowered Sam Cooke, or a less cryptic Cass McCombs."
You can hear the culmination of these inspirations and experimentations on the completed Unreal. The album officially launches with release shows in Montreal on January 22 and Toronto on January 23, but you can stream it in its entirety below right now.

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