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Devon Welsh - True Love Music Album Reviews

With his intense baritone voice, Devon Welsh travels deep into the feelings of isolation and introspection with grace and beauty.

There was a strange high-wire thrill to Majical Cloudz, Devon Welsh’s project with Matthew Otto. Welsh proclaimed the simplest and most naked sentiments in a clear but untrained baritone over synthesizers so warped and wispy they felt like they existed only in your head. Their best songs arranged these few elements in space like a score to a David Lynch film, where loud sounds crashed in without warning and confounded your sense of space and time. Nothing that happened felt strictly real. It either worked spectacularly for you or it didn’t; they weren’t a middle-ground act.


Since parting from his Majical Cloudz partner, Welsh has continued as a solo artist. His voice radiates the same emotional intensity, and he sings with equal commitment. But he also reinforces what a fragile balance the Majical Cloudz project was. On his second solo record, True Love, he occasionally sounds a little denuded, his voice leaving that uncanny space and becoming the voice of just a guy sitting at the end of the bar. The arrangements scan as simple instead of sparse, and with one of these small elements slightly out of place, everything he does starts to feel a bit flat-footed; lines like “I wanna be just like my stepdad, I wanna be as cool as him/But then the only thing I can ever really find is me” on “Uniform” scrape pavement instead of taking off.

But there are also moments here where that unsteady magic kicks back in—“Dreamers” sounds like 2009-era John Maus, painting a sweet portrait of two lovers (“He liked the Beach Boys, she liked the Doors”) and offering a bashful, fist-pump chorus of chanted “yeahs.” It’s exultant but tiny, like the cells of a future teen-movie anthem gathering in a petri dish. “Songbird” marries the finger-picked guitars of Welsh’s last solo record, 2018’s Dream Songs, with the dreamy atmospherics of Majical Cloudz. He stops to admire the way “songbirds sing in the sun,” and his music operates on a similar level—instinctual, beautiful. In place of a chorus, he croons wordlessly at the top of his range. It is a lonely, haunting sound, and it communicates with your bones.

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Some songs float in the unsteady middle, dipping into near-banality and then catching a draft upward. “Somebody Loves You” might be the most bathetic song Welsh has ever written, on paper—“Heaven is a place I do hope you find,” he sings, enunciating each word as if talking to a small child—but the near-human cries of the synthesizers defamiliarize his words. “Don’t get carried away/Sometimes there’s nothing to say,” he intones on the title track. He sounds like he might be reading them, puzzled, off a milk carton. “This won’t mean a thing unless we try,” he pleads on “Faces,” allowing the word “try” to occupy six syllables.

Welsh made this album almost entirely alone, a process that seems to suit him. His introspection is the sort that usually precludes human interaction, and Welsh’s narrator always seems to be reentering the world, raw and shaky, after some defining devastation. “I will turn away from the shivering world/Though I am a child of that old and rotten place,” he vows on “Grace.” But there is no spirit of turning away here, only an embrace from someone who seems ready to break and rebuild himself, again and again, for you.


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