Fran Healy’s solo debut suggests there isn’t much need for Travis to exist anymore: With songs such as “Buttercups” and “Holiday,” Healy proves he can still write silly, forgettable pop, but he’s also developed a lushly dark edge that’s more interesting than most of his band’s recent output. Playing nearly all of the instruments, Healy opens the record with a string of mature, orchestral tracks that are alternately beautiful and unsettling. Sounding world-weary and tired, he ruminates on broken relationships, aging (“Rocking Chair”), and death (“As It Comes,” featuring a barely noticeable bassline by Paul McCartney) through sadly bittersweet narratives. Healy borrows generously from the Britpop landscape, and like Thom Yorke, often uses his voice as an instrument itself; Wreckorder presents Healy’s vocals at their most fragile and emotive, to best effect on “Anything,” an achingly soft, measured love song. (Oddly, his voice makes a suitable pairing with Neko Case, who duets on the shadowy “Sing Me To Sleep.”) Predictably, there are some truly terrible lyrics here and there, and a few tracks (such as “Shadow Boxing”) are ambling, dull filler. In spite of the throwaway moments, however, Wreckorder proves to be Healy’s most thoughtful work since Travis’ The Invisible Band.
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