Singer-songwriter Ari Hest, who has been opening for the likes of Judy Collins and is currently touring with Suzanne Vega, releases his eighth studio album Shouts and Whispers on June 8. The title presumably suggests the nature of the various tracks that make up the album—some are shouts, some whispers. On a simplistic level the duality could refer to Hest’s division of the music into two sections: the guitar centered acoustic set which closes the album, and the more elaborate soundscape of the four songs which open it. These, he tells us, were written with focus on the keyboard. In a deeper sense the title might also be seen metaphorically in terms of shouts of despair and sadness and whispers of understanding and acceptance.
As with much serious art, any kind of dialectic is probably an oversimplification. Hest’s songs are both more suggestive and more cryptic than they appear. What seems simple at first hearing becomes more complex with repeated hearings. Printed lyrics, had they been provided, would have helped in explication. Lyrics for songs like “Into the Empty White,” a beautiful melody strewn with elegant images or the dense “Harvest,” which opens the album, would allow for some more intensive analysis. Even what seem like the more straightforward songs like “How We’ll Always Be” and the darker “Here to be Forgotten” would benefit from printed lyrics.
As Hest explains: “The vibe of the keyboard driven tracks is intense. I wrote a lot about the uncertainty of what I do for a living. On the contrary, the acoustic songs come from a place of lucidity.” And in general, it is the acoustic songs that seem to me to highlight the album. “After the Thunder,” which climaxes the set, is an absolutely gorgeous melody. It soars with passion and ends the album on a high. “Less” and “No One Can Stay” as well as “Into the Empty White” and “How We’ll Always Be” are all melodically memorable. These are the kinds of tunes that you find yourself humming after you hear them a few times.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00K445PK2]