Cian Nugent

Cian Nugent isn’t new to the music scene at all. In fact, you might even say he’s a bit of a veteran at this point. So what does someone who has been giving it a go for a while now do for their third full album? If that someone is Nugent, the answer is to assume the role of singer/songwriter. The transition isn’t a hard right turn or 180 by any means, but it is a markedly noticeable adjustment from his previous outings. Night Fiction, which took only a week to record last year, captures the passion of the album that may have been amplified by the brevity of the recording process, too.

You’re met with this turn fairly quickly once “Lost Your Way” takes hold. The influences are clear (Richard Thompson, Fred Neil, etc.), and the production offers a stunning clarity. You can hear a bit of Destroyer as well. Pointedly enough for an album that has a clear artistic switch, Nugent deals with looking for yourself after losing your way. A plethora of approaches can be taken, but you gotta do what’s best for you. One thing that’s pointed out about Night Fiction is how it’s not so guitar driven, but I don’t necessarily see it that way – it just takes a different style.

“First Run” has bluesy psychedelic elements that are propped up with a howling organ and guitar in the face of despondence. It’s all one step at a time in a quest for truth – inner, outer, both? Hard to tell, but quite often when the instruments take over, the song feels like the shadows of your mistakes break free, and you can go forth with a true calling. But you’ll soon find the good times don’t always last. A woozy sobriety on the sprawling “Shadows” leaves you (and maybe Nugent as well) a bit unsure about what to do with said good times. A horns section elongates the grey cloud that hovers overhead to compound the feeling of accepted anxiety and general malaise.

The pendulum swings back on “Lucy” though. A relaxed trembling stream flows through the chords, and Nugent’s penchant to expand the universe without saying a word more than pays off. It serves as a much needed reprieve in the search for clarity in an opaque world. If one had to choose a stand out track on the album, it may be a track that struggles with the idea of authenticity, “Nightlife.” Solitude where you know you’re wasting time takes hold, but what else can you do? He says history has been written, and half of the things on display have been seen before. What’s the point of trying to find the real you/attempt to find a real truth? Well, if the answer was that simple, this album probably wouldn’t have needed to be recorded.

Album closer “Year of the Snake,” a massive 11+ minute piece, may have a case for the standout track as well. It opens with a droll guitar and slight imperfection in tuning. Then, a cymbal gets things moving with a tempo that builds momentum. You see something in an expansive distance, but you can’t tell what it is. There’s some electro organ and violin, and a 180 in attitude seems to take hold– almost like all are invited to the party when the electric guitar solos start and drums push everything out of the way. Nugent’s voice finds its way in with about five minutes left only to ask, “Why try so hard?” on a track that could have easily ended an A-side in the early 70s. You know what? Thinking about it, this may just cement itself as one of the best songs of 2016.

Night Fiction is out January 29th and current available for pre-order from Woodsist. Joey Smith