The title track for this album, The Ornament, showcases Grant Olsen’s Seattle roots: poppy, folksy, definitely indie, with drowsy tunescapes and pointed lyrics. As one half of the former Arthur & Yu, he crafts the nine tracks on this debut album with loving care, taking a bit of influence from producer Jason Quever (from Papercuts). Although on sort of a hiatus from recording since ’07, it appears as though he has been busy writing and arranging,all to a good end.
Cruel Kind begins with a lovely acoustical guitar, percussion slipping in quietly and then Olsen adds the vocal layer, the whole process so smooth and easy that it’s the middle of the song before you realize there’s a crescendo occurring. Olsen holds the middle ground of his tenor range well and prefers to allow his lyrics to add intensity instead of straining to convince his audience how he really feels.
A lovely sense of vulnerability shines through on selections such as Silver Lining and Honeymoon, some notes just off-key enough to evoke a live recording. Rich and strong, the majority of the tracks lead the listener on a languid musical journey, using the mainstays of 4/4 time signatures and pleasant guitar chords.
With a 60’s feeling pushing Hard Feelings, I expected to hear Bobby Greensboro on backing vocals, although The Companion, the last track, lends a very western (not country) flavor. The use of reverb and echo on the harmony tracks keeps the songs firmly in the 21st century and no one would mistake this album for anything but pop-folk.
Grant Olsen’s intimate style plays very well as a solo artist and he would be a grand addition to any playbill, as well as any playlist.