Calico hoods were headpieces worn by prisoners in the 1800’s that would cover the face, with only small eye-holes, a restrictive garment used to desensitise the wearer, rendering them unaware of their surroundings. Manchester songwriter James M Carson uses these coverings as a metaphor for how we evade our problems. As he puts it, “Out of sight, out of mind“.
The opening line of this song is telling. “Jesus, I’m no good in a fight,” Carson sings in a voice not unlike the late Elliot Smith, over a resigned acoustic instrumental that ebbs with the flow of his vocal melody. “I make a point, take it back, shrink away like a dying light,” the simile being an on-the-nose descriptor for feelings of self doubt and lack of confidence. The song’s lovely major key melody is deceptive of the anxiety and paranoia entangled in Carson’s words. I’m always a sucker for songs where the instrumental sounds positive or hopeful, but the lyrics are more negative, and this is no exception.
I’ve listened to some of Carson’s earlier songs from 2014’s Sold As Scene EP, and there’s a clear leap in the quality of both production and songwriting. It seems like this is an interesting taste of things to come. The single comes with two acoustic tracks, suggesting a full length release could be on its way. If its made up with more songs as good as this one, then James M Carson could have something truly special on his hands.
‘Calico’ is out now. Download it on Bandcamp here.