Ink & Oil By Storefront Church album review by Zara Hedderman for Northern Transmissions. The album is now available via DSPs


Ink & Oil

Storefront Church

Sonically vast and extravagant like an abandoned château, Ink & Oil, the second record from songwriter Lukas Frank aka Storefront Church contains many different spaces within to explore. The grandiose arrangements populating the first portion of this ambitiously crafted twelve-song tracklist present themselves like the younger sibling to Father John Misty’s sardonic and sophisticated sensibility circa Pure Comedy and God’s Favorite Customer. The likeness between Storefront Church and Father John Misty goes beyond theologically themed monikers, it’s in the vocal performance, often surreal-leaning lyrical stylings and lush strings steering the way for the warm tonal palette that persists throughout the LP courtesy of the live orchestra featured on every track. The storytelling and set-dressing of “Melting Mirror”, with mentions of “ferris wheels” “antique songs” and “brights souls of acrobats” and also “King of The Lobby” featuring a cheers to a bride and groom, cannot but make you aware of the mark Tillman has clearly left on Lukas Frank. At times, this similarity can be distracting and that’s before noting the Rufus Wainwright resemblances (Frank’s vocal twin!) and the harmonies that instantly herald The Beach Boys honeyed hue elsewhere on the record.

It’s no surprise that there’s also a Scott Walker-shaped imprint on the darker moments on Ink & Oil, given his influence on Tillman’s songwriting embedded in Frank’s work. It’s Walker’s more avant-garde material (1995’s Tilt and The Drift, which followed a little over a decade later) that echo in the menacing and abrasive “The Manhattan Project” and the shapeshifting “Coal” which doesn’t shy away from its use of shrill string accompaniments to unsettle the listener. The latter, unfortunately, is one of the few instances where Frank’s tendency towards crafting these vivid mini-operas gets tangled and confused in the directions it wants to go with its deviations into a dreamlike fairground music state.

Ink & Oil is an undeniably impressive body of work from Storefront Church to the uninitiated. The fearlessness in Frank’s boldness when developing the vast breadth in songs like “The High Room”, “Words In The Rind” and “The Orange Grove” are immediately captivating in their cinematic essence. It’s challenging to not get completely swept up in their sonic power. However, it is in the quieter and more contained compositions, the triptych of “Divine Distraction”, “Shadowboxing” and “Tapping On the Glass” where Frank’s focus is most appreciated, especially after such a dramatic whirlwind of sound and production that precedes them. In those three songs, in particular, there’s an engaging tenderness in Frank’s performance and crucially more space to feel fully welcome within the work. And while there are still elements of the aforementioned influences incorporated in these songs, they are the instances where he feels most comfortable.

While the influences coloring Ink & Oil are prevalent, sometimes to its detriment, there’s an abundance of artistic vision and talent in Storefront Church’s arsenal to continue building upon.

Order Ink & Oil by Storefront Church HERE


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