As its title implies, there’s a lot of emotional depth to the song “Weight of the World,” one of the star tracks from Arun O’Connor’s new LP Songs from the Reading Room, but truth be told, the stateliness of its performance is on par with what listeners can expect throughout the album. O’Connor is quite the approachable troubadour in Songs from the Reading Room, but this doesn’t mean that the content he covers here is any less intimate. He’s getting quite personal with us here, and delivering what could be one of the better indie listens of the spring season thus far.
There’s a lot of drive behind the lyrical execution in “Too Far Gone,” “Star of Your Own Show,” and “Used,” and it’s quite obvious that none of these songs were born of hooks exclusively. There’s just too much personality to this material for their origins to be commercial in nature, which is more than I’m able to say about the output we’re getting from a lot of this singer/songwriter’s peers in 2022. His is a cathartic odyssey, as opposed to the clandestine recycling of rhythm most of us are used to when browsing the FM dial for new music.
It would be really interesting to hear “Another Reminder,” “When the Darkness Comes Around,” “Games I Can’t Win,” and “Walk Away” in a live setting a lot sooner than later, mostly because I think that their design makes them a lot more appropriate for the stage than the studio. There’s so much that O’Connor could do with the bones of these songs, and yet he’s deliberately holding something back from us here as if to tell us that there’s more we have to discover when seeing him perform all of these tracks in a live concert.
Storytelling tends to be the strongest theme we can embrace in Songs from the Reading Room, although I wouldn’t say that O’Connor is without a bit of pop lyricism in tracks like “When the Lights Go Down (In This Town)” and “Let Go of My Heart.” The influence he takes from a traditional model is rather minimal in comparison to what I might expect from some of his less than erudite rivals, but it’s also essential to give a lot of this content the kind of radio accessibility that scores of indie players would spend the better part of a few years trying to master on their own.
I didn’t know anything about the music of Arun O’Connor before stumbling across Songs from the Reading Room just recently, but if this is a good indication as to what kind of a singer/songwriter he’s going to be in future releases, you can put me down for more of what he’s serving up in these twelve songs. This is quite the intriguing tracklist, and while lacking the provocative experimentation of his alternative-focused contemporaries in the country music underground, O’Connor proves not to need a lot of fanciful tricks in these performances – with his voice and his poetic license, he can do anything he wants here.