The Midnight Sun (C Duncan album)

The Midnight Sun is the second studio album of Scottish composer and dream pop musician Christopher Duncan, known by his moniker C Duncan. While recorded by Duncan in the same bedroom studio as his previous album, Architect (2015), as well as having the same baroque pop sound, The Midnight Sun has a more polished sound due to Duncan upgrading his studio, contains more electronic music elements, is more consistent stylistically, and has a darker tone and atmosphere inspired by Rod Serling's television The Twilight Zone. Released in October 2016 by FatCat Records, it landed at number 28 on the Scottish Albums Chart, was well-received by critics and was a shortlist nominee for the Scottish Album of the Year Award.

The Midnight Sun
CDuncanMidnightSun.jpg
Studio album by
Released4 October 2016
Genre
Length40:26
LabelFatCat
ProducerC Duncan
C Duncan chronology
Architect
(2015)
The Midnight Sun
(2016)
Health
(2019)
Singles from The Midnight Sun
  1. "Wanted to Want It Too"
    Released: 3 August 2016
  2. "Other Side"
    Released: 2 December 2016
  3. "Like You Do"
    Released: 30 March 2017

ProductionEdit

Duncan said that shortly after the release of his first album Architect (2015), he wanted to finish a second album quickly simply to keep busy with tours: "I thought I might as well just get the ideas down for the second album when they came, instead of wasting time for the sake of it."[3] Like Architect, The Midnight Sun was written and produced by Duncan in his Glasgow bedroom studio.[4] Due to his experience learning recording equipment with Architect, which took more than a year to finish, Duncan was able to complete The Midnight Sun in only three months.[2]

Duncan initially planned for his second record to be a Burt Bacharach-esque easy listening album, where he used a more professional studio and hired a string quartet.[5] However, in the end, he decided to record in the same studio as the one used for Architect at the same low budget: "I got so used to having really limited access to things. So I wanted to do that for the second album, but without it sounding [the same]."[5]

The Midnight Sun has a more polished sound due to Duncan upgrading the equipment he used after completing Architect.[4] He upgraded his Macbook, the audio interface he used, where he went from a TASCAM US-122 he used for ten years to Focusrite's Clarett 2Pre interface, and the monitor he mixed on, going from RHA headphones to KRK VXT4 monitors.[6] He received both the Clarett 2Pre and the KRK VXT4 monitors via a deal Focusrite made with Duncan to appear in one of the company's promotional videos.[6]

"Do I Hear" was originally composed as a classical piece he composed for soprano voice in 2014 before he arranged and recorded it in the style of The Midnight Sun.[7]

MusicEdit

 
Rod Serling's television series The Twilight Zone influenced The Midnight Sun.

As with Architect, The Midnight Sun is a dreamlike baroque pop record[8] with many moments of layers of Duncan's voice executing harmonies.[9] However, The Midnight Sun has a more polished sound due to Duncan upgrading the studio after completing Architect,[4] is more electronic[10] as it incorporates more synthesizers,[5] includes more tinges of contemporary jazz,[11] and features more complex percussion.[1] Duncan claimed he put hidden compositional references to other songs on The Midnight Sun: the pitch of "The Last to Leave"'s melody follows the direction of "Edelweiss," a show tune from The Sound of Music, and Duncan used elements of the melodies in William Walton's piece Belshazzar's Feast for the songs "Who Lost" and "Jupiter."[8] Juan Edgardo Rodriguez of PopMatters called the album more pop-oriented than Architect, which he compared to Kevin Parker's direction into pop on his Tame Impala album Currents (2015), and noted that Duncan plays around with elements of pop on the album.[12]

The Midnight Sun was inspired by the atmosphere and format of Rod Serling's television The Twilight Zone, which is why the album is titled after the tenth episode of the show's third season.[4] The Twilight Zone inspired Duncan to make an "anthology series styled album" where, despite each song being different conceptually, the atmospheres and styles of each songs connect together, creating a cohesive listen.[4] This departed from his previous album Architect (2015), which mixed together elements from a bunch of genres[4] and, to Duncan, felt like a "collection of songs" rather than an actual LP.[8] In terms of tone, The Midnight Sun is also more ominous than Architect.[8] The place Duncan was living in while he made the album was Glasgow, where during the summer, nighttime lasts for only three to four hours.[4] This had a "claustrophobic, mysterious and unnerving" effect on his mental state that he related to the tone of The Twilight Zone, so he incorporated that into The Midnight Sun.[4]

LyricsEdit

The Midnight Sun's dark character is further enforced by its lyrics, which deal with relationship issues, depression, and other situations Duncan went through.[8] "Like You Do" is a song about a depression that one of Duncan's friends was suffering from while he recorded the album.[7] The themes of "Other Side" were influenced by his desire to be outside of his hometown as a result of enjoying his experience touring other nations.[7] "Who Lost" is a song about other people in someone's life making his rivalry between him and a sibling pointless.[7] It is based on Duncan's childhood experiences with his brother.[7] "Last to Leave" is, according to Duncan, a map of a failed relationship he had with a former partner.[7] Duncan said "Do I Hear" is about getting into someone else's lifestyle while "being yourself and coping with and embracing your quirks, sexuality, and character."[7] "Jupiter," in Duncan's word, is a "romanticised" version of a "strange" experience he had in a gay boat party he went to after performing in Hamburg in 2015; he called it "a euphoric song, yet slimy and unnerving."[7] The LP closes with "Window," a realization that someone feels better once he's figured out his problems.[7]

ArtworkEdit

Duncan painted the cover art for The Midnight Sun in between making each track.[8] The artwork is a painting of a stairwell in his flat, and he spent "fifteen times a day" viewing the stairwell he was painting.[8] According to him, "it was all about what interested me whilst making and recording music myself."[8]

PromotionEdit

The lead single of The Midnight Sun was "Wanted To Want It Too," issued on 3 August 2016.[13] On 2 September 2016, The 405 premiered the video for the song which was directed by Helen Plumb.[14] It depicts a masked "heart stealer" that symbolically represents the emotions a person has when they got out into the night.[14] Plumb also directed the videos for "Other Side"[15] and "Like You Do."[16] The single for "Other Side" was issued on 2 December 2016,[17] and its video was released on 12 December 2016. The video stars artist Rondi Park as a woman who puts on various dresses to escape reality.[15] "Like You Do" was released as a single on 17 March 2017, with "Nothing at All" as its B-side,[18] and Nothing but Hope and Passion premiered the video for it on 30 March 2017.[16] The video consists of "simple" footage of Duncan being distorted.[16] On 11 October 2016, PopMatters premiered a video of a live performance of "Do I Hear" by Duncan and his backing band at the Cottiers venue in Glasgow, filmed by Plumb and Ben Cox.[19]

ReceptionEdit

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Album of the Year80/100[20]
AnyDecentMusic?8/10[21]
Metacritic81/100[22]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [1]
DIY     [23]
Financial Times     [24]
God is in the TV10/10[25]
The Guardian     [26]
musicOMH     [27]
PopMatters          [12]
The Skinny     [28]
Uncut9/10[22]
Under the Radar          [29]

The Midnight Sun was generally praised by critics,[22] numerous reviewers spotlighting the album's huge detail in the sound design and composition.[23][30][31] A ten-out-of-ten review of The Midnight Sun from the webzine God is in the TV highlighted the album's "emotional core," where its mysterious tone is "led by the soul’s need for resolution," claiming, "what makes The Midnight Sun so utterly compelling is its spontaneous nature and unmatched beauty, which is in many ways much like life-itself."[25] AllMusic praised The Midnight Sun for having "significantly bolder strokes" than Architect and that it "rewards a patient ear and an open heart,"[1] and Gigsoup praised the album's "transcendence of genre."[11] The Quietus claimed, "[Duncan] writes melodies you feel you’ve always known, harmonies that satisfy your ears and cadences that strike with and at your heart. If anything, this album is better than his first, as he settles confidently on his recognisable but versatile sound."[31]

musicOMH praised the LP for being "carefully and painstakingly thought out" like Architect while making this task sound "effortless,"[27] and Rodríguez wrote that it has "an asset that allows [Duncan] to interlace all kinds of sonic and tangible elements without dismissing his prominent folk leanings."[12] The Guardian claimed The Midnight Sun had "a spirituality that, in a year of bold musical statements and political upheaval, provides a soothing tonic; an escapist episode of spectacular beauty."[26] A mixed review by Billy Hamilton of Under the Radar found the tracks to only be "subtle variations of the same song," opining the album was mostly "lush and immersive" and little else.[29] The 405 Robert Whitfield criticized the LP's atmospheric elements for getting in the way of the lyrics and vocals: "C Duncan’s vocals are often buried under so many layers that what message or meaning he wishes to communicate is lost. Ultimately it means that The Midnight Sun is more of an atmospheric experience, than an emotive one."[30]

The Midnight Sun made it to the shortlist of the 2017 Scottish Album of the Year Award, an annual award that honors records made by Scottish artists, but lost to the LP Strike a Match (2016) by the rock band Sacred Paws.[32] In terms of year-end lists from publications, the album was number 36 on a list of the best albums by Under the Radar[33] and number 7 on God is in the TV's list.[34]

Track listingEdit

Track lengths derived from the iTunes Store.[35]

No.TitleLength
1."Nothing More"1:27
2."Like You Do"4:40
3."Other Side"3:15
4."Wanted to Want It Too"3:57
5."Who Lost"3:35
6."On Course"3:37
7."Last to Leave"3:29
8."Do I Hear?"4:04
9."The Midnight Sun"4:16
10."Jupiter"4:20
11."Window"3:46
Total length:40:26

Release historyEdit

Region Date Format(s) Label
Worldwide[36] 4 October 2016 Streaming DIY
7 October 2016 FatCat
North America[47][48][49] 14 October 2016

ChartsEdit

Chart (2016) Peak
position
Scottish Albums (OCC)[50] 28
UK Independent Album Breakers (OCC)[51] 4
UK Physical Albums (OCC)[52] 62
UK Record Store Chart (OCC)[53] 9

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Christopher Monger, James. "The Midnight Sun – C Duncan". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b Vigil, Dom (4 November 2016). "Q&A with C Duncan". The Prelude Press. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  3. ^ Matthews, Nammie (2 January 2017). "BN1 Chats with… C Duncan". BN!. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "The Midnight Sun". FatCat Records Official Website. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Hawthorne, Katie (30 September 2016). "Natural Phenomenon: C Duncan Interviewed". The Skinny. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  6. ^ a b Robertson, Derek (16 November 2016). "Planet Gear: C Duncan / In Depth". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Day, Laurence (6 October 2016). "Track By Track: C Duncan on The Midnight Sun". The Line of Best Fit. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Bell, John (3 March 2017). "C Duncan // Interview". London in Stereo. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  9. ^ Shepherd, Fiona (3 October 2016). "Interview: C Duncan, reluctant pop star". The Scotsman. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  10. ^ Lewis, Henry (3 January 2017). "C Duncan interview "I'm obsessed with writing music"". Skiddle. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  11. ^ a b Goodger, Louise (9 November 2016). "C Duncan ‘The Midnight Sun’". Gigsoup. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Edgardo Rodríguez, Jaun (October 25, 2016). "C Duncan: The Midnight Sun". PopMatters. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  13. ^ Roberts, Christopher (3 August 2016) "C Duncan Announces “Twilight Zone”-Inspired New Album, Shares "Wanted to Want It Too"". Under the Radar. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  14. ^ a b Caston Cook, William (2 September 2016). "C Duncan Wanted To Want It Too [405 Premiere]". The 405. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  15. ^ a b Martin, Bronte (12 December 2016). "Watch C Duncan's escapist new video for "Other Side"". Earmilk. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  16. ^ a b c "Video Premiere: C Duncan’s hypnotic ‘Like You Do’ is a comforting dream pop pillow". Nothing but Hope and Passion. 30 March 2017. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Other Side – Single by C Duncan". iTunes Store (Ireland). Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Like You Do – Single by C Duncan". iTunes Store (Australia). Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  19. ^ Zupko, Sarah (11 October 2014). "C Duncan – "Do I Hear" (video) (premiere)". PopMatters. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  20. ^ "C Duncan – The Midnight Sun – Reviews". Album of the Year. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
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  22. ^ a b c "Critic Reviews for The Midnight Sun". Metacritic. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  23. ^ a b Johnson, Eugenie (October 14, 2016). "C Duncan – The Midnight Sun". DIY. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  24. ^ "C Duncan: The Midnight Sun — review". Financial Times. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  25. ^ a b Khan, Nad (October 11, 2016). "C Duncan – The Midnight Sun". God is in the TV. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  26. ^ a b Gibsone, Harriet (October 13, 2016). "C Duncan: The Midnight Sun review – a soothing aural tonic". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  27. ^ a b Baber, Andy (October 10, 2016). "C Duncan – The Midnight Sun". musicOMH. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  28. ^ Hawthrone, Katie (September 30, 2016). "C Duncan – The Midnight Sun". The Skinny. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  29. ^ a b Hamilton, Billy (November 1, 2016). "C Duncan: The Midnight Sun (FatCat) Review". Under the Radar. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  30. ^ a b Whitfield, Robert (17 October 2016). "C Duncan – The Midnight Sun". The 405. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  31. ^ a b Cocks, Helen (9 October 2016). "C Duncan: The Midnight Sun". The Quietus. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
  32. ^ "C Duncan — The Midnight Sun". Scottish Album of the Year Award Official Website. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  33. ^ "Under the Radar’s Top 100 Albums of 2016". Under the Radar. 16 December 2016. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
  34. ^ Etheridge, Loz (12 December 2016). "Albums Poll of 2016". God is in the TV. Retrieved 13 July 2018.
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  36. ^ Connick, Tom (4 October 2016). "C Duncan enters a different zone on new album 'The Midnight Sun'". DIY. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
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  38. ^ "The Midnight Sun av C Duncan" (in Swedish). iTunes Store (Sweden). Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  39. ^ "The Midnight Sun by C Duncan". iTunes Store (Norway). Retrieved 24 June 2018.
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  41. ^ "The Midnight Sun di C Duncan" (in Italian). iTunes Store (Italy). Retrieved 24 June 2018.
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  43. ^ "The Midnight Sun by C Duncan". iTunes Store (New Zealand). Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  44. ^ "The Midnight Sun by C Duncan". iTunes Store (Australia). Retrieved 24 June 2018.
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  46. ^ "에서 감상하는 C Duncan의 The Midnight Sun" (in Korean). iTunes Store (Korea). Retrieved 24 June 2018.
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  48. ^ "The Midnight Sun by C Duncan". iTunes Store (Canada). Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  49. ^ "The Midnight Sun de C Duncan" (in Spanish). iTunes Store (Mexico). Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  50. ^ "Official Scottish Albums Chart Top 100". 14–20 October 2016. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  51. ^ "Official Independent Album Breakers Chart Top 20". 14–20 October 2016. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  52. ^ "Official Physical Albums Chart Top 100". 14–20 October 2016. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  53. ^ "Official Record Store Chart Top 40". 14–20 October 2016. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 June 2018.