2014’s All These Nights In Bars Will Somehow Save My Life established Rob Lynch as somewhat of a new voice within the clutch of singer-songwriters beget by Frank Turner’s reign. There was something a lot warmer about him, with the tracks on that debut stripped down for a poppier dynamic. Nevertheless, as nice as it was, it could sometimes feel a bit toothless when placed next to the rest of Xtra Mile’s coterie. Baby, I’m A Runaway rectifies that somewhat – instead of the poppier folk of his debut, this sophomore full-length sees Lynch veer in the direction of pared-back, acoustic-driven pop-rock, a skin that really fits him rather well.

Of course Baby, I’m A Runaway is still as light and easy on the ear as its predecessor, but the inclusion of some more electric guitar and prominent drums lends a bit more muscle to the likes of Prove It! and the quite wonderful Sure Thing, which bears more than a passing resemblance to Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life. But as poppy as this album is, it feels unfalteringly organic in its production – there are parts of this album that feel like they were recorded in a living room, but in the best possible way. This is especially true of the backing vocals, courtesy of members of Deaf Havana and We Are The Ocean. There’s no advanced studio trickery or layering here, giving them a personality and identity of their own that comes in their rather ramshackle presentation (that WATO’s Liam Cromby can be easily picked out on Runaway speaks volumes). And while in terms of sound this album doesn’t always work – the breathy folk of Tectonic Plates and the lumbering clang of Salt Spring feel considerably weaker than most of the album – the evolution of sound that’s present is definitely commendable.

Admittedly the biggest problem can sometimes be Lynch himself. Vocally, he can seem a bit meek on tracks like Closer, but there’s a puppyish innocence and optimism to him that’s admirable and incredibly affable. And though he doesn’t have the same deft lyrical nouse as many of his contemporaries, it’s his earnestness that really shines through in his writing. Youth is a prime example, a track about the ever-popular topic of ageing, but where the majority of singer-songwriters view it through a lens of disdain, Lynch’s take is much more rose-tinted, shown in the line “All my friends are scared of growing old / But I’d rather grow old than not grow old at all”. It’s hardly the most nuanced or tactful statement from a writing standpoint, but the sentiment has a level of buoyancy that mirrors that lighter musical tone of the album. It’s not as investing the pathos-drenched fare that Frank Turner has made his selling point, but Lynch’s sound offers an alternative in every form, one that’s more hopeful and lyrically upbeat, and one that’s actually really solid.

That’s the main reason that Baby, I’m A Runaway is likely to stand out in the currently bloated singer-songwriter scene. It’s a ray of light amongst typically dour, downbeat fair, bright and breezy and with positive outlook on life. And while Lynch mightn’t be the most technically talented musician in the world, he’s charming enough to really make this sort of thing work. This won’t be the best album released this year by any stretch, but if nothing else, it paints Lynch as one of the most likeable figures in music today.

7/10

For fans of: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Beans On Toast, Will Varley
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘Baby, I’m A Runaway’ by Rob Lynch is released on 22nd July on Xtra Mile Recordings.

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