God's Little Eskimo is the musical project of Johnny Restall, a singer-songwriter from Manchester with a serious love for pre-Industrial imagery. (On the latest God's Little Eskimo album, Said the Owl to the Mouse, song titles include "The Alder King" and "In the Gloaming Woods.") Restall's instrumental arrangements tend to be spare--some guitar chords here, a bit of mild percussion there--which makes sense, since God's Little Eskimo is first and foremost a vocal showcase. The instruments are largely there to provide a context for Restall's falsetto, which he loops and layers in dizzying strata, turning himself into a harmonic community.
On some songs, this I-contain-multitudes approach is a great way to communicate joy. (The song "I Go Swimming," a slow-release celebration of a summer day, is what the Polyphonic Spree could sound like if they'd just calm down for five minutes.) But I find myself drawn to Restall's more melancholy work, like "The Sea Shall Not Have Them," from the 2009 album At Play in Borley Rectory. I can't really understand what Restall is singing here, for the most part--the lyrics seem to name a bunch of landmasses in the British Isles--but the song carries a loneliness that's unmistakable. Restall adds vocal tracks here in a way that reminds me of a snowfall: it starts out light and invigorating, but doesn't take long to pile up to the point of overwhelm.