This is fantastic folk music. The harmonies on His Majesty by the Prince of Spain are some of the best I’ve heard in a very good 2013. Everything from pop major chords to infectious handclap sections, this album emerged at exactly the right time. Lyrically and sonically, this is a hit record.
“Everything I’ve ever wanted was always mine…” That’s the key lyric on the first track “Brothers” about functioning in a materialistic society. The song manages to both look forward into the future and backward into the past, all while embracing the present. “So hear me brother… the time has come to mend the brokenness…” It’s a wonderful adventurous song. The positive chords and harmonies just drive home a message of reconciliation and moving forward. It’s a hit.
The “single” that I’ve heard in places other than the band’s own bandcamp page is the second track, “Away We Go.” It’s got a hard driving lyric, a nice bass drum, and a strum pattern that gets toes tapping and, well, listeners’ attention. Again its befitting a trip backpacking across Europe or some such adventure. “Away we go…” serves as the anthemic charge to motivate listeners. It’s perfect fodder for all mixtapes and playlists for roadtrips, spring break trips, and new relationships. It’s got just enough of that pop vibe it’s easy to hear why companies come calling for it in commercials, etc.
The ethereal vocals on “Explore” smack of Fleet Foxes and even Bon Iver. They are gorgeous. Sometimes writers use the phrase “breathtaking” as a synonym for a bland word like “cool” or “good.” When I say this song is breathtaking, I mean that it makes listeners literally take pause. It is “next level” good. “Every day that passes feels more like home as we watch our love grow…” that’s the kind of romantic lyric that can make a career, let alone an album or track. It’s a sonically-pleasing track with the kind of lyrical complexity that makes the album infinitely replayable. That’s rare in our singles-oriented music marketplace.
The fingerpicking on “Find Love,” to say nothing of the seemingly different character of the lead singer’s voice, shows the folkiest sound on the entire of the album. It’s not a gimmicky “more cowbell/more banjo” sound that seems to be permeating the folk music scene. Rather, this is a real, raw sound in everything from the xylophone to the layered vocals. Unsurprisingly the lyrics focus on admirable challenge of, well, finding love. “I will do what I have to to find love. I will find you.” Nice.
“Run Little Child” has a Dylan-esque flavor to it. It’s intricate and well-written, like much of the album, but does so with a particular panache that smacks of Dylan’s style. Although it picks up in pace near the beginning, it’s the lyrical phrasing that makes it sound like a classic. “Run run little child…” is an inspiration. It makes listeners feel free and that’s a good thing.
The last track “To Call My Own” is heavy on the electric guitar, piercing at that. But the reason for this is immediately evident. This is not the typical folk album outro. Instead, the Prince of Spain punctuates his message of hope and future adventure with exciting gang vocals that are his lyrical coming out party. “I finally found a heart to call my own. I see the world through different eyes and I do not believe. What if God knows whats a lie is sacred now to me?” I might be mistranscribing some of those, but he’s basically declaring that he’s found himself. Now, world, he’s out to make a difference. It is no longer a heart of stone.
With lyrics that put listeners in mind of Mumford and Sons, a folk sound that veers from that style to something relatively unique, and enough reference to classic music to keep stodgy reviewers like myself coming back for more, this is an album that a lot of people need to know about. In fact, there are a lot of people that will love every track. It’s often a sing-a-long album. Every track encourages singing, clapping, and real introspection. The Prince of Spain accomplished the rare combination of catchy music with difficult and penetrating philosophical lyrics. This is for fans of 21st century folk revival, particularly those who enjoyed the short reign of Fleet Foxes.