Scottish-based musician C. Duncan received a Mercury Prize nomination for his innovative approach to songwriting after his 2015 release of Architect. That creativity was evident in 2016’s The Midnight Sun – and now in his third full length, Health, too.
All three albums have been heavy on lush choral harmonies, blending classical elements with key-shifting synth-pop tunes. Openers Talk Talk Talk, Wrong Side of the Door, and Impossible continue in this vein, with retro keyboard sounds and weighty lyrics.
At times, this record can feel quite stale, making it a struggle to sit through from start to finish. Even with the singer’s impressive vocal range, the obscure chord changes and peculiar topics can make Health a mentally exhausting listen.
It’s rare for an album to finish with its three best tracks, but Health does. Pulses & Rain gives a lift to the album with its jungle-tinted rhythm, and bouncing keyboard chords. The jazz-pop skiffle of Stuck Here With You is equally distinctive, before the big choral sweep of Care makes for a hazily affectionate closer.
There are moments which show C. Duncan’s writing is in rude health, but there’s not enough here to break him out of his niche.