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Young Chicago up-and-comer Bryan Away has released a timely EP, fitting the moods and atmospheres of autumn with reflective, melancholic overtones. Away explores introspective themes of loneliness, loss, and isolation, delivered with a wistful, tired indie-folk touch. Assisting with production is James McAlister, who has previously collaborated with Sufjan Stevens, among others. McAlister’s hand is light and sparse throughout, relying more on a meticulously arranged recording setup, rather than heavy tinkering after the fact.
The titular opening track exemplifies the intimate, ghost-like qualities of Bryan Away. This one could readily be compared to Elliott Smith, with whispered vocals smoothed over by warm Rhodes piano tones. A dramatic, dread-filled crunch of piano interrupts the ambience as quick as it disappears—all part of the mysterious flow and dynamic of this tune.
Harping on in a more traditional rock vein is ‘Birthday Song’. Breezy instrumentals skirt alongside conventional elements, though there are hiccups in Away’s lyrical execution.
‘Children’ is a finger-picked number with mild psychedelic overtones and wells of emotion. It wouldn’t sound out of place on the experimental and insular White Album by the Beatles. Think ‘Mother Nature’s Son’, etc. ‘Pour One Out’, on the other hand, encompasses elements of jazz and classical which adjoin to a shuffling beat. The bass runs are nifty, grounding, and clever, yet never interrupt the flow of the song—the mark of an excellent player.
Finishing up the EP is ‘Ode to Dog Days’ which doesn’t inspire much compared to the rest of the material. There are some neat jazzy breaks, but combined with the wistful lyrics, it sounds too theatrical. Some refinement with the band and less interruptions in the writing would improve this one.
Overall, Bryan Away’s latest is a solid EP with several worthy offerings. Recommended for fans of Deerhoof or even oldies like Nick Drake.