by Alan Davey
Joshua Cockerill gave us a fine debut album in 2009 with The Trick with Your Heart I’m Learning to Do. With strong literate songs, and a pronounced alt.country attitude and twang, the 21 year old Albertan gave a sense that there would be much more to come. The last three years have been spent based in the supportive musical community of west Toronto, living in Justin Rutledge’s basement, refining his live act and writing. This included a residency at Toronto’s venerable Cameron House where he introduced a new song every week. For his second album he’s adopted the name Animal Parts, put together a fine band including the multi talented Joshua van Tassel on drums, and recruited Chris Stringer (Timber Timbre, Ohbijou) as producer, recording in the venerable acoustics of the Lincoln County Social Club.
The sound is more varied than the exuberant twang of the first album, but is still based on strong songwriting. The opener ‘There’s A Trick With Your Heart I’m Learning To Do (Pt III)’ sets the tone with a slightly distorted sound reminiscent of Brian Borchertdt’s Dusted - through which shines a melody with a troubadour’s romantic declaration “In this evil world I will stand among the lovers” and a nod to Lorenz Hart as well as poet/author Christopher Ondaatje. By contrast the next song is the deceptively simple catchy and acoustic nu-folk ‘What our Love is’ with Stornoway-like horns, leading to the even more stripped down ’Running’ – an intense acoustic ballad that shows off Cockerill’s clear tenor voice. This rootsy acoustic intensity is demonstrated on other songs on the record - ‘The Bird Song’, ‘Always’ and ‘A Dream Where I Break Horses’ – three highlights that show the strength of Cockerill’s yearning ability to tell a story and suggest depths of emotion in the everyday. In between are moments of engaging power pop – the single ‘King of Kings’, the live favourite ‘I Won’t ever Let You Down’ and the wobbly synth sounds of ‘Poets’. The album ends with a lovely and simple ukulele-driven piece ‘Behave’ – fading wistfully out on a note of romantic optimism.
This is strong sophomore offering that shows a talented songwriter experimenting with a new, less strictly alt.country soundscape and a further promise of things to come, particularly in the lightly brooding acoustic songs. Hopefully we’ll see Cockerill live on these shores sometime soon.