Mazarin's mournful frontman charms with his Byrdsian twanging...

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Quentin Stoltzfus: London 12 Bar Club

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Quentin Stoltzfus: London 12 Bar Club

Quentin has the care-worn air of a man who spent his school days cowering in a corner of the playground and who grew up only to get his heart broken every other week. The man behind Philadelphia’s masters of misery, Mazarin, greets us with a typically self-deprecating remark: “So who isn’t on the guest list tonight?” No hands are raised.

See, Quentin’s one of a handful of male American singer songwriters who exist on the mainstream’s underbelly and craft moving, bittersweet vignettes to the acclaim of precious few. Maybe a song called ‘Suicide Will Make You Happy’ isn’t immediately inviting, but with its giant hook, Lou Reed-style riff and slyly humorous lyric it’s compelling. In the same way that ‘Deed To Drugs’ opines “One day I’ll give my life to drugs/I think I’ll start today”, Quentin captures downhome despair with a wry, knowing smile.

Strapping on his 12-string for the picture-postcard pop of ‘Sicily’, the guitar rings with a Byrdsian charm but the tone is still one of detached desolation. It’s the world seen by an outsider and it’s a world worth visiting. While you’re there, check out those other male American singer songwriters – Michael Shelley for barstool power pop and Damien Jurado for poet-of-the-bottle country blues. It will never be theirs or Quentin’s year, naturally, but they’ll make your year that bit better.

Ben Clancy