No one can ever accuse Brendan Staunton of going gentle into that good night. After failing to gain any commercial traction during his initial 1990’s run through the music world, Staunton moved onto other endeavors. The change in direction never dimmed his passion for song. The nine outstanding performances included on his first album in thirty years Last of the Light are often moody, yet melodic, tales of heartache delivered with masterful phrasing and style. If Staunton felt any trepidation about these songs, it never shows. It is a little reliant on its subject matter, but it’s Staunton’s musical arena, his clear area of interest, and no one can accuse him of aping other performers and songwriters. There’s an idiosyncratic and wise voice driving each track on Last of the Light.

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Many will hear it immediately in the album’s first song. “We Don’t Talk About It” demonstrates a level of adult candor about relationships few other musical artists achieve. Staunton doesn’t overdramatize the pain in the song’s lyrics and invests it with a sense of emotional stakes that never feels forced or phony. There are exceptions but “We Don’t Talk About It” likewise introduces us to Last of the Light’s guiding musical template. The low-key pulse setting the tempo for the album opener reappears with later songs and acoustic guitar is often the melodic heart of each arrangement.

“River” is memorable. Staunton commits himself to his performance a notch above the album’s other fine efforts and benefits from a lyric lacking even a single weak line. It is obvious three songs into Last of the Light Staunton possesses sharp instincts for what songs work best for this release. His desire to achieve an unified musical statement is clear. Songs like “River” help him reach such goals. One of the more painful lyrics on Last of the Light comes with the track “Stop Believing”. The song’s speaker sounds nothing less than bereft though his love remains intact. There is a lot of romance in these songs, but there’s a healthy dose of pragmatism as well that makes them all the more meaningful.

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“Nine Day Wonder” scales the same heights reached with the earlier “River”. There are undoubted poetic qualities running through this song, just like there are during “River”, but his observations are sharper and he turns the words in a much different direction than before. Staunton takes listeners on an unexpected detour with the track “A Moment” with the inclusion of a rough-hewn rock guitar solo. It doesn’t seem out of place though. Listeners will appreciate the album’s touches of diversity as they never venture too far afield of Staunton’s comfort zone. “A Girl” is, inarguably, the most significant departure on Last of the Light and ends the release. It has far more electronic instrumentation than any other track on this album. It doesn’t ring false despite the enormous differences with the earlier songs and ends the collection on an audacious note. Brendan Staunton’s Last of the Light is a rewarding listening experience from beginning to end.

Michael Rand

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