Equipped with a voice like Damon Albarn and the indie-folk sensibilities of Badly Drawn Boy, William Gray’s first album had a scruffy, likeable charm which made him a worthwhile addition to the ranks of self-produced singer/songwriters. Arriving just a year later, ‘Vertical Wealth’ attempts to repeat the trick.
As self-conscious as ever, ‘First Dog In Space’ sees Gray imagine himself as the subject of the title, complete with “wet nose and a hairy face”. Humour aside though, he uses the song as a vehicle to express loneliness with a lightly melancholic tune. After that, though, the album takes a while to get going until its mid way point.
Set to an insistent chiming guitar figure, ‘Sparks Don’t Fly’ once again plays to the strengths of Gray as the perennial loser in love whilst ‘Open Season’ rumbles along very pleasantly. Elsewhere, ‘The Nail That Sticks Up Must Be Hammered Down’ is a poignant, piano-led highlight and ‘The Fatalist’ is a lovely, warm and doleful way to end the record, which reminded me a lot of Windsor For The Derby’s ‘A Spring Like Sixty’.
Sparkling with wit and personality, ‘Vertical Wealth’ is a continuation of the form which Gray showed on his first album. The fact that the second half is arguably better than the first is typical of the endearing qualities of this talented songwriter.
Blur, Badly Drawn Boy