George Ward
George Ward

Freelance journalist based in Bristol. Can be found at the Grain Barge, Rough Trade or in his tiny basement bedroom writing for CLUNK.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Label: Tiny Library Records

Niall Summerton describes his debut album, ‘What Am I Made Of?’ as “a collection of snapshots of periods of my life over the last 2 years”. This is exactly what the album feels like, and is the best way to approach the project. 

At only 30 minutes long, this is not a long album, but it really is all the better for it. There is no nonsense here, just 10 beautifully fragile, soft and warming folk songs. Niall’s goal to explore memories or ‘snapshots’ is captured perfectly, with the tone as nostalgic as could be, allowing us to look back in the same way he has. 

‘What Am I Made Of?’ eases us in with ‘Human, Dying’, a melancholy but lovely track about life, humanity and the effort of being alive. Summerton sings: “I’m done with trying, I’m only a human, dying.” The line is simple but brutally honest, with little room for argument. The instrumentation is minimal and never takes the attention away from Niall. 

The atmosphere created here is never broken. Throughout the 30 minutes, it is maintained and nurtured, with a few surprising factors interspersed. My favourite of these is the saxophone. On ‘Dusty’, the dreamy atmosphere is heightened by the gorgeous sax harmonies towards the end of the track. The lines are loose, the tone is warm and it compliments Summerton’s voice perfectly. 

Another of these sax moments appears on album closer ‘Oh, To Waste My Time!”, where it takes more of a leading role. The solo towards the end of the track is incredibly smooth and jazzy, leaving us with the perfectly dreamy headspace to finish the album with. 

Throughout the album, there are moments that aren’t quite as effective. For example, ‘Time’, while a really pleasant track, isn’t quite as memorable as some others, and while the drums of ‘Wish You Could Speak’ are a nice change of pace, it does make us realise that Niall is at his best when he is softest. 

‘Need You’ is the best example of this. The track is absolutely beautiful, fragile and melancholy. Summerton’s vocals are almost inaudibly soft and the fingerpicked guitar is the perfect accompaniment; again, it doesn’t distract, but simply completes the atmosphere that Summerton has set out to create. 

For a debut album, ‘What Am I Made Of?’ is lovely. The tone is cosy, the vocals are delicate and the production has real warmth to it, matching the songwriting beautifully. Niall says: “It is a conversation between myself and my thoughts and hopefully one that listeners can have with theirs too.” Have a listen, drift away, and see if you agree. 

Listen to ‘What Am I Made Of?’ here: