Frank Turner is one of the more prolific singer-songwriters around: The guy is consistently on tour and he's now released six full-length LPs in eight years. He's a songwriting machine, and that production doesn't come at the expensive of quality. Everything he's put out since 2008's Love Ire & Song is worthy of a listen, with the mild exception of 2013's disappointing Tape Deck Heart, which is where Turner left us last.
Tape Deck Heart, for me, suffered from being too long and mismanaged. The record itself has a normal 12-track runtime, but the "deluxe edition" included six bonus songs tracked onto the end (some of which certainly deserved to make the cut for the proper LP). I didn't realize this in 2013, and proceeded to listen to the entire album as an 18-song marathon, deciding that some of my favorite tracks were amongst those bonus tunes. Either way, it was Turner's weakest album, while in 2011 he released the near-perfect England Keep My Bones.
As far as style, Turner is a known and familiar quantity: He's a singer-songwriter with a backing band, and his albums have a pretty simple range, moving from quiet acoustic tracks to rocking full-band numbers. While it's not a complex formula, Turner does it as well as anyone doing it today; England Keep My Bones benefitted from a particularly well-sequenced set of ups and downs through acoustic and full-band songs, serving for an addicting full listen.
But where Bones showed us the growth of an artist ready to grab his career firmly by the horns, the breakup songs of Tape Deck Heart will be remembered as an odd zig-zag in what's becoming a formidable discography.
The balance Turner struck on England Keep My Bones and Love Ire & Song comes back in a great way on Positive Songs for Negative People, his latest effort. After only a few listens it was apparent to me that this album immediately contends with Bones for Turner's best work: His melodies are on point, the loud songs are fun as hell to sing along to ("Get Better" will be a raucous one at gigs) and his witty, metaphoric lyrics tell stories of bouncing back from Tape Deck Heart's heartbreak.
Turner singing positive songs is a thrill in itself, as his emotive vocals on songs like "Mittens," "The Next Storm" and "Love Forty Down" are delivered with a sense of urgency. We have to move on, we have to become better, we have to live our lives in the way we want to live them, and we can't wait any longer to start doing these things to the best of our abilities. Turner makes you believe it.
The album's opening and closing acoustic tracks sandwich a positively addictive album that I'll be listening to repetitively in the near future. A cool bonus comes in the deluxe edition of this record -- Turner record the 10 middle songs on the record all acoustically, so you can basically listen to the entire album in acoustic fashion if you take the original opener and closer. If you prefer his songs when it's just him and his guitar, he basically gives you the option of choosing to listen to the full record in that way.