Brilliant Mind – Blyth (Tiny Light Recordings)
Once every generation, a lyricist with the ability to encapsulate the working class experience into beautifully crafted pop songs make themselves known: in the 1980’s, Morrissey captured the suffering of the British masses under Thatcher, Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian offered an escape from the laddish Britpop of the 1990’s through his yearning words, whilst in the 00’s, Alex Turner exhibited the heights of northern culture through his sharp observations – ladies of the night and attempting to get a taxi home. In the lyrics of Calum Lynn, frontman of Brilliant Mind, the 2010’s has gained a voice every bit as wistful, witty and wry as those who have gone before.
‘Blyth’ takes the listener on a journey through the grim wasteland of the northern town from which Brilliant Mind derive – the claustrophobia and perpetual dissatisfaction of small town syndrome shaping much of Lynn’s lyrical focus. Hidden behind the tale of lurking lust on opener ‘Don’t Give Me That, Rob’, the neurosis of an unsatisfactory existence creeps into the frame: ‘You take an average boy and you take success/ and he’ll chase it down ’till there’s nothing left’. However, Brilliant Mind don’t necessarily want to escape the depraved urban landscape of their existence, instead aiming to find beauty in the grim and grey, best demonstrated on the beautifully nuanced ‘The Room Upstairs’, in which shadowy images of discrete lovers blur with ‘playing fields’ and ‘the railway tracks’ – ‘The Room Upstairs’ also demonstrates the often overlooked musicality of the band: the brilliance of Lynn’s words are underpinned by deceptively intricate riffs and subdued minor chords.
However, it’s the eponymous track of the EP which best demonstrates the talent of Brilliant Mind: ‘Blyth’, our track of the week in last week’s The Hoot, begins as a beautifully melancholic ballad but progresses into something far more anthemic – once again, Lynn finds hope and beauty in the flawed and desolate industrial wasteland. It was said that Lowry found optimum inspiration for his ‘matchstick men’ and portrayal of Northern life in Blyth, and the same can be said for Brilliant Mind – poetic and dripping with melancholic sentiment, ‘Blyth’ is a masterpiece.
Australian singer-songwriter Ry X, of ‘Berlin’ fame, has augmented his Bon Iver-esque acoustic stylings with DJ Adam Freeland and producer Steve Nalepa to form ‘electro-project’ The Acid. Their debut album ‘Liminal’, released on Infectious Music, is due out on the 2nd June, ‘Basic Instinct’ offering a first insight into the three piece’s work: brooding vocals, eerie harmonies and stuttering guitars morph over minimalistic beats, before the track decomposes into snarling bass and synthetic feedback. Like The XX, or a much darker, sinister alt-J, The Acid continue the trend of taking profound and poignant folk to the darker side of the city. Brilliant Mind – Blyth
Those who listen to ‘The BBC Introducing Mixtape’ on BBC Radio 6 would have heard Brilliant Mind’s ‘Don’t Give Me That, Rob’ given much deserved airtime, however it’s the title track of their EP ‘Blyth’ which best shows the band’s exceptional songcraft. Like Morrissey and Belle and Sebastian’s Stuart Murdoch before him, frontman Calum Lynn addresses the industrial wasteland of the North, the kitchen-sink dramas and the perpetual hopelessness it entails in the form of concise and beautifully forged pop songs – a true lyrical talent. The Fun Years – Janice Was Into Recovery
Turntable and baritone guitar duo Isaac Sparks and Ben Recht, or The Fun Years, released their latest album ‘One Quarter Descent’ on cassette earlier this month, ‘Janice Was Into Recovery’ the strongest track on this exceptional ambient drone album. Recht’s tremolo guitars mesh with Sparks’ subtle, scratchy production to create the soundscape perfectly suited to walking home on a dark, snowy evening – like an early M83, less anthemic but far more beautiful. Douglas Dare – Swim
The dark bravado and majesty of Douglas Dare’s vocals and piano seem to belong in the same shadowy depths of Anthony & the Johnsons – Dare’s mournful croon exists in its own space, submerged in layers of minor chords. However, the production of Fabian Prynn pulls ‘Swim’ to the surface of this murky ocean, moulding the timeless sense of Dare’s work into something utterly contemporary through glitchy, electronic beats. Both detached and isolated, but familiar enough to carry a real emotional tug, ‘Swim’ comes from Douglas Dare’s debut album ‘Whelm’, released on Erased Tapes on May 12th. Jay Woodward – Howl
‘Howl’ is a cut from acoustic singer-songwriter Jay Woodward’s debut album ‘Letters We Told’, released in September 2013. A concept album, ‘Letters We Told’ explores themes of correspondence and the written word and the influence of such themes is clearly heard in ‘Howl’ – Woodward adopts a confessional tone, his lyrical self-awareness reminiscent of artists such as Elliott Smith. However, it is the sophisticated, experimental production of ‘Howl’ that allows the track to transcend the work of similar singer-songwriters: Woodward’s work as a sound engineer prior to recording his debut album clearly shows, as wandering, trembling electric guitars are underpinned by subtle acoustics and underlying harmonies. Alice Boman – Over
‘Over’ by Swedish singer-songwriter Alice Boman is the musical equivalent of a trembling bottom lip: fragile and delicate, but also staunchly resistant – Boman’s haunting, achingly beautiful vocals plays over intimate synths and lo-fi percussion, similar to a mournful Beach House. The lyrics are deceptively simple: ‘you know I need solitude, just as much as I need you by my side’ offers little for interpretation, but doesn’t need to – it works purely as a stunning narration of a suffocating relationship.