Thursday, September 27, 2007

Reviews:: Meredith Bragg Silver Sonya

Do you remember that Unplugged Series on MTV? They get popular artists to play an intimate acoustic show and talk about the songs, talk about life. In LL Cool J's case he played unplugged, but still had huge chunks of deodorant plugged to his pit hair, but that's neither here nor there. Well, Meredith Bragg is back with a new record - Silver Sonya - and while I could call it his unplugged album, I'd rather call it his exposed record.

Instead of creating pop masterpieces with his backing band the Terminals, Bragg recorded a solo record and apparently every sound is a manipulation of his voice or acoustic. There are no drums, no bass, no support - it's just Bragg's finger picking and voice and then those sounds are looped, bent, twisted and stretched into backing effects and textures. I'd like to talk about that more, but I'm my long winded diatribe would make the concept seem gimmicky. To be honest, if someone didn't tell you about the idea in an email or blog entry, you'd never even think about it.

Considering Bragg's penchant for writing killer pop hooks, the stripped down nature of this part Simon and Garfunkel, part Jose Gonzales-esque collection of songs is shocking on first listen. Gone are the addictive layers and drum machine loops. Gone is the instantaneous catchiness that had people (okay - us) comparing the Bragg & the Terminals to DCFC. In it's place are emotional tracks that draw you close, like Bragg is calling you over to tell you a secret. It's a bold choice for Bragg, but one that works well and rewards for the listener.

The crackling current that runs through Twin Arrows creates an atmospheric cloud around his acoustic and helps the tune shine, but he easily shifts into a more traditional folk sound on tracks like Ballad of an Opportunist and Plinian. Lines like - things are breaking all the time, like promises and party lines - take me back to the folk anthems of the 60s, but Bragg never let's his songs drift into kitsch territory. You never think Bragg is trying to write a folk song and that's why Plinian has the making of a timeless song you'd learn and play on your porch or around a campfire.

Perhaps the most shocking ting about a record made from only a guitar and one man's voice is that it never drags or stumbles. The sounds they mix help each track sparkle with emotion and they are surprisingly diverse. Even the 6-minute opus, Rejoice, moves quickly, with Bragg gradually adding more atmospheric notes and more powerful strums to heighten the energy and tension. Personally, I think some of the best tracks are the ones that move at the slowest pace. Turns Out You Won is an intimate slow burner that drips with hurt. You can't help but sigh as he utters "the battle is over. Turns out you won, and I just keep holding on."

I think my favorite song is the delicate New York. The gentle sounds mask the melancholic words Bragg sings. It's the type of song that should play as you pack your things early in the morning, after finally deciding to leave. Whether it's the city (as it is in this case), the relationship or life in general, Bragg captures the emotion of the desolate feelings you go through when it's time to go.

For fans of Bragg's previous work, this record will be a welcome addition and certainly get you excited for the 2008 release he has planned with his band. For people new to his work, I suspect you'll be hooked quickly.
MP3:: Twin Arrows
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Posted at 12:07 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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