Thomas Charlie Pedersen – Second Hand War
Thomas Charlie Pedersen, front man for Danish alt-rockers Vinyl Floor, has stepped away from the high octane melodic trappings of his full-time band for his first turn as a solo artist. Second Hand War is a fourteen song collection that plays to his across the board talents with melody and construction while tackling those elements from a distinctive acoustic point that underscores his melodic talents while often reaching satisfying lyrical heights. The songwriting gets a chance to flourish even more in this setting thanks to the lack of electrified clatter to overwhelm the vocals. Pedersen’s voice is pleasantly melodic throughout, but there are an assortment of songs here, all darker hued material, that gives Pedersen a chance to show off surprising gravitas in his voice. The production is sharply handled – it is rendered in perfect clarity but, instead, takes aim at establishing intimacy and atmosphere, succeeding wildly with both.
“High Dust Devils” has a steady strum driving the acoustic guitar and the forlorn harmonica wail gives it a quasi Dylan-esque feel. One perhaps might wish for a bit more musical spark in an opener, but this track succeeds despite its tempo thanks to exceptionally well developed lyrics and a complementary vocal performance from Pedersen. “Appreciation Hymn” has an unusual and rather beautiful melody. Pedersen’s lyric about gratitude is ideally phrased around the guitar melody and the song’s transitions are seamlessly carried off. Piano guides the song “Letter from the Dead”, but it has a different feel than the album’s later piano driven pieces. This is a much more expansive track, particularly in regard to its length, and it gives Pedersen’s lyric a chance to go deeper than later efforts are afforded. There isn’t quite the same virtuoso edge to his piano playing here that one hears on the later, shorter pieces, but it works just as well as those songs for different reasons.
“Uneasy Feeling” is one of those later piano pieces and the differences are obvious. The piano competes for the listener’s attention every bit as much as the lyrical content and Pedersen’s voice, unlike the earlier song where the arrangement plays much more like a vehicle for the lyric despite the fact that this current song is much shorter. There’s are a little compact, condensed gems scattered across Second Hand War’s running order and this is one of the finest. On the other side of the emotional spectrum, “For You” is the finest of a handful of mandolin driven pop songs that provide great balance against Pedersen’s piano-laden melancholy. “Kill With Kindness” is the album’s longest track and finessed along by a beautiful recurring guitar figure Pedersen occasionally varies with brief flourishes of color. The lyrics are the album’s best yet and, if Pedersen has positioned this track as the album’s conclusion, he couldn’t have chosen a better or more appropriate song. Second Hand War is one of those releases that will attract a certain amount of positive chatter on release, but as time goes on, word of mouth will likely elevate this album in esteem until it ranks among the best efforts of Pedersen’s career.
8 out of 10 stars.