Willy Mason If The Ocean Gets Rough

When Willy Mason first appeared as a young, articulate male singer with an acoustic guitar, it didn’t take long for someone to compare him to Conor Oberst. It didn’t help that Oberst’s label, Team Love, released his debut album, so the comparisons just continued to accumulate until the "next Bright Eyes” tag was like a massive weight dragging him down. It did help garner him some extra exposure though, and anyone with ears can tell that the similarities were minimal anyway. Jump forward three years and the release of If The Ocean Gets Rough should see Mason shake off all comparisons to Bright Eyes. It is a better-rounded album than its predecessor, even if it does suffer from the same uniformity. Some of that is due to Mason’s voice, which is so distinctive, belying the fact that he’s only 22, possessing the haggard qualities of a singer twice his age. But despite sounding like an older musician, his songs and, in particular, his lyrics betray his youth. While he tries to write about politics, he comes across as naive and his bleak worldview wears after three or four songs. Still, he’s young and there’s plenty of time for his obvious talent to develop and make the great album that If The Ocean Gets Rough hints at from time to time. (Astralwerks/EMI)