Wednesday 31 July 2013

Barry Brusseau - The Royal Violent Birds

Album review by

Barry Brusseau is a singer-songwriter who's jostling for space in the crowded music scene of Portland, Oregon, but he seems to be managing OK, as 'The Royal Violent Birds' is his second solo album after years spent playing in other bands. Part of the key to his success may be down to the fact that, unlike many of the city's championed artists, he's not attempting to combine the worlds of indie and electro-pop in the wake of bands such as MGMT proving that, mixed correctly, sales and fame can be achieved. Instead Brusseau considers himself to be an indie-folk artist, although this, while essentially correct, does give a slightly false impression of the music he makes.

With deep tones like his and songs that you're unlikely to find soundtracking kids TV shows, there are bound to be comparisons drawn to Tom Waits, Nick Cave and so on, and it is likely that Brusseau is no stranger to their work, but his approach is a little different. Opening with 'Pig Frost', you're led into something of a false impression of how the album will pan out. This is a very American sounding alt-rock track and could even be considered post-grunge, but it's only about a minute long and is something of a false dawn. This means we don't have to wait to get to the crux of what 'The Royal Violent Birds' is about. That deep voice is joined by spacious but elegant arrangements for the near chamber-pop of second track 'Across The Fire', and this is a far better example of where Barry Brusseau fits in.

Little more than some lonely brass augments the desolate title-track for the most part, although guitar joins in from time to time. It's an ominous feel that's created here and seems to be steeped in legend and tradition, whether real or fabricated. These baron songs fill much of the album and while this is no cause to detract from the quality, it does mean that this is a record that may take a few plays to gain your full appreciation, but if you allow this to happen then tracks like 'Love and Adoration' or the lighter 'Empty Head' become that bit more special. Moody centrepiece 'Home Sick Yawn' is perhaps closest to Nick Cave, but it's followed by 'Plymouth 73' which again has a chamber-pop feel, mixed with a touch of country. Ending on the solemn but captivating 'Till The Wind Blows Everything' we reach the end of an album that, while it may not be as immediate as some, shows some excellent songwriting skills.

Free download: 'Love and Adoration'
(Click to stream, right click, save as to download)

Barry Brusseau's website

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