Fiction Records – 2004 – 47 minutes

'Magpie', the debut album from Manchester-based Stephen Fretwell, is very much a slow burner, at times a little too slow.

Cynical and bitter, the album is quite scornful of society and life in general. Tracks like 'What's That You Say Little Girl' and 'Emily' are very angry songs that hit out at the world and clearly show an indifference on Fretwell's part to the way things are. It often sounds like he's trying to make a point to a particular person, perhaps a lost love, or someone who's hurt him in the past.

The album moves very slowly to begin with, leaving you a little impatient and wondering when Fretwell is going to awaken from the stupor he seems to be in, but with 'Emily', 'Brother' and 'New York' the collection really takes off.

'Magpie' is an apt title for this collection as it borrows quite a bit from the work of other artists, mimicking Bob Dylan's world-weary style and even sounding on occasion like our own Paddy Casey or Damien Rice.

Stephen Fretwell is certainly an artist to watch, but in this climate of world-weary singer-songwriters it will be interesting to see if he can keep ahead of the rest and stay in the spotlight.

Katie Moten

Tracklisting: Do You Want to Come With? – What's That You Say Little Girl – Run – Bad Bad You, Bad Bad Me  - Rose – Lost Without You – Emily – Lines – Play – Brother – New York – '–'  – Rain – If You Go