There’s something instantly charming about an album as intimate and warm as Adem Ilhan’s debut, Homesongs. Named thusly because Ilhan recorded the entire album at home, Homesongs actually gives the listener the feeling that he’s been invited inside the singer-songwriter’s flat to cozy up by the fireplace on a rainy day and listen to some songs he wrote on his acoustic guitar. It’s not all that far from the truth, actually. Ilhan is probably better known for playing bass in the post-rock group Fridge. And fans of that band will most likely be taken aback by the more personal, stripped-down sound heard on Homesongs.
Homesongs is a friendly and inviting batch of songs that greet the listener with so much charm, it’s hard not to take an instant liking to them. Very few songs on the album expand into elaborate arrangements, as Adem seems to prefer a more basic approach. Every song on Homesongs is built around an acoustic guitar melody and Ilhan’s warm, unmistakably British voice. Percussion is never more elaborate than bass drum and tambourine (or so it sounds) and added instrumentation is never more exotic than bass and xylophone or glockenspiel. Yet, Ilhan’s songwriting is good enough not to warrant overtly dense and unusual instrumentation. If he really wanted to, with a couple friends, Adem could easily perform the album for his mates at home.
Adem is most often compared to Badly Drawn Boy, whose debut Hour of the Bewilderbeast was similarly conducive to giving listeners a homespun, warm, fuzzy feeling. But Adem’s music seems even more stripped down than Damon Gough’s. Homesongs is actually so cozy, that it even begins with a lullaby, the starkly beautiful “Statued.” The following song, “Ringing in My Ears,” visits the time-old theme of lost love, though with Ilhan’s own optimistic charm, as he sings “I toasted marshmallows/While you burned our bridges down.” Who could break up with a guy who’d say that?
Adem’s optimistic vein runs through the whole record. In the Iron and Wine-like “Cut,” Ilhan sings “You’ll be alright/ I just know.” In the album’s centerpiece, the majestic “These Are Your Friends,” the song culminates in a coda of “Everybody needs some helps sometimes.” And the main character of “Everything You Need” leaves behind her past only to be met with an invitation to “Come back with open eyes/to everything you need.” But even on the more baroque, oddly Bjork-like “There Will Always Be,” Ilhan reassures us that “there will always be room at my table for you.”
One might fault Adem for being too earnest, but his music is so good and his lyrics so inviting that whoever does actually hold it against him is basically an asshole. Albums this sincere and beautiful don’t come along often. In “Everything You Need,” Adem sings “home is where the heart comes from,” but he also proves that home is where great music comes from, too.
Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour of Bewilderbeast
Iron and Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days
Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.