Review: Jon Fratelli – Bright Night Flowers

Jon Fratelli has been one of my favourite songwriters for over a decade. His sense of electric storytelling, bouncing guitars and sing-a-long choruses have made some of the best Brit pop of the 2000’s. Allegedly recorded several years ago, Bright Night Flowers, Jon’s second solo album, was delayed after the reunion of The Fratellis. Freshly re-recorded, Bright Night Flowers finds its footing in that as much as it’s a continuation of Jon’s knack for storytelling, it is the least like his signature sound out of anything released throughout his career.

You can buy or stream Bright Night Flowers on Apple Music.

Bright Night Flowers is a soft album. Inspired equally from southwestern country and indie piano ballads, the album is a series of slow-burners, heavy on orchestration and slow escalation. On first listen, Bright Night Flowers has a tough time differentiating songs from one another. Violins, twinkling piano keys and Jon’s crooning vocals can sound remarkably similar from track to track. However, Bright Night Flowers is arguably the first album since Jon’s side project, Codeine Velvet Club, that sounds like it is meant to be taken in as a full piece.

Bright Night Flowers is a minor concept album of seeing the follies of being in love from the eyes of someone who is heartbroken, wishing the world around him the best with a cynical tone, such as in the title track (“A thousand Juliets are driving every boy out of his mind / Crying in the rain wishing she was still the first of her kind”). However, reading far too much into it as is my wont, it could potentially be argued that the album follows a loose concept of a heartbroken man who falls in love with a prostitute (“Hold out your hand, take whatever you please / How can you love when you’re down on your knees? / Burn this disguise, wipe those blue eyes”. – “After a While”).

Though it lacks the rock heavy elements from most of Jon’s various projects, Bright Night Flowers still sounds like a Jon Fratelli album. The signature curl of his vocals reflect throughout each song, even if he isn’t stressing his voice for something new. And though this album is slower, it’s not completely foreign. “Crazy Lovers Song” sounds like an acoustic track left off of The Fratellis’ Here We Stand and “Dreams Don’t Remember Your Name” is reminiscent of the style of In Your Own Sweet Time.

Bright Night Flowers isn’t as much a different direction for Jon Fratelli as much as it is a soft building of an idea from track to track. Different listeners will find either jaded love songs with dreamy lyrics, or a disenchanted storyline to follow depending on how much time they’re willing to put into it. Equally relaxing as it is brutally cynic, it’s a welcome return to the mesmerizing storytelling Jon does so well, even if doesn’t incite you to dance.

3.5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and HAS TOO MUCH TELEVISION!!! There is so much to watch, and not enough time to learn how to make wicker baskets.

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Mini Review: Hikaru Utada – Face My Fears EP

At this point, Hikaru Utada is almost synonymous with the Kingdom Hearts video game franchise. She provided the theme song to the first two main games in the series, which have both been remixed over the years for each new game in the long running series. After nearly 13 years, Kingdom Hearts III is finally here, and with it comes two new theme songs that do the series justice.

Where “Face My Fears” sets the tone for the new game as the opening song, “Don’t Think Twice” is the theme song for the game itself. It’s a song that directly addresses players with earthy piano and angelic vocals. With Kingdom Hearts III set to close out the “Darkseeker” storyline with a final battle against the villain who has plagued the franchise since 2002, “Don’t Think Twice” is as encouraging as it is a resolute ‘thank you’ for anyone who finishes the game.

The Face My Fears EP offers a glimpse of this era of Utada, after she returned from a multi-year hiatus in 2016. With the help of Skrillex, “Face My Fears” is one of her most energetic songs of late. Beginning as a somber piano ballad, the song quickly explodes into an electropop fantasy that balances the melancholy state the heroes of the Kingdom Hearts series find themselves in at the start of KHIII, and the flamboyant hope that everything Disney brings. “Face My Fears” conveys both the breathless burden of marching into war (“Breath, should I take a deep? / Faith, should I take a leap?”) and the courage of accepting the fight (“Let me face, let me face, let me face my fears / Won’t be long, won’t be long, I’m almost here”).

“Don’t Think Twice” is a much more peaceful affair that celebrates the end of a journey. This version of “Chikai”, a single off of last year’s album Hatsukoi, appears to be a love song on the surface (such as “Simple & Clean” from the original KH). However, the song addresses the Kingdom Hearts game in direct and indirect ways soothingly. Along with vague commentary on the development cycle (“I’m only crying ’cause I never dreamed / It’d take this long, it’d take this long”), Utada changes the lyrics in the English version to reflect the third game in the series “Kiss me once, kiss me twice, kiss me three times / Cross the line”).

Included on the EP are the original Japanese versions of both songs. The natural poetry of the language they were written in is beautiful, and contain almost entirely different lyrics depending on the translations. They make a fine counterbalance to the English versions and a different experience for anyone who hasn’t already delved into the world of J-pop.

The Face My Fears EP is a tiny sliver of Utada, one of Japan’s most famous artists. The songs are softer than what would be expected as anthems of a big budget action videogame with backing from Disney, but they set the mood perfectly. Together, they feel like an ending cap to the ridiculously upbeat “Simple & Clean” (“Hikari”, Kingdom Hearts), and the war-drums of “Sanctuary” (“Passion”, Kingdom Hearts II). However Kingdom Hearts III turns out after years of extraordinarily high expectation, it’s reassuring to know that its soundtrack will at least do the series justice.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has literally thought about Kingdom Hearts III almost every day for the last year. He has gaming fever. Please send medicine. Or bagels.

 

Review: The Crash Years – Cope

the_crash_years

The Crash Years’ new EP, Cope is a slow jog, but worth your time in every sense. It’s an album of piano heavy pop songs and ballads that don’t rush themselves, instead taking their time to fully flesh out into a heartfelt story.

Cope is an album that retains the grace and raw emotional pull of any great piano pop band. Piano is definitely the main instrument of choice, leaving the rest of the instruments to act as backup, pushing the melody forward. It creates an atmospheric effect that helps the lyrics to take center stage. What results sounds like a pleasing mixture of early Copeland and The Reign of Kindo.

However, the strongest points of this EP are also its most damaging. With every song a slow one, by the end of the album it feels like it begins to drag as some of the songs begin to blend together. Vocalist Joel Cox is a beautiful singer, however, showcasing his abilities on the album opener, “Intro”.

That said, if you need something soft to jam to, this EP is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s quiet and peaceful, but pumps enough life from the full band to grab your attention. Lyrically, the EP is very heartfelt and soothingly comforting.

The aforementioned “Intro” is a soft piano ballad that shows off the range of Cox’s voice in an infectious catchy pop melody. “Beyond the Trees” is a slow song with soft drums and strumming guitars that help showcase the vocals as he sings, “Tell me your story, leave the details / Tell me about your scars”.

“Cope”, the self-titled finale is a seven minute song that walks along prodding piano and faint guitar, keeping itself afloat with a harsh warlike drumbeat as it slowly ramps towards a satisfying ending.

The Crash Years’ Cope is a soothing refresher from the scene that makes itself a very humanistic piece that is easily relatable. While the aim of the EP is to create atmospheric piano pop, it doesn’t vary itself enough to particularly stand out. What it excels in though, is being a gorgeous distraction from the louder releases on the scene that will hypnotize you in melody. If you were a fan of Copeland, this is an EP that you should be listening to.

3/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.