Philadelphia’s own James Brant released in mid-2015 his rock folk debut album Strange by Design, which is a one-man show of sorts, since Brant took care of everything: vocals, guitars, mandolin, piano, drums, bass, and the banjo. The depth that he seeks to attain through his lyrics is balanced out with melodies which, although impeccably composed, remain relatively and without artifice, simple throughout.
The tunes are both quite similar in their build yet different in their details. From slow to mid-tempo, the 14 offerings on this album are built on acoustic guitars, gentle drums, and pianos, with either of them leading the melody. Emotions evoked range from hope to heartbreak and everything in between, embodied somehow in the innocent, cheery, yet bordering on sad, short piano mid-tempo track, “A Tone, A Phrase” opening up the set.
“Knew Myself” features an interesting interplay between plucked acoustic guitars and a gentle piano; four layers only (including the vocals) that manage to fill the ears. This is one of the tracks on which the vocals take some getting used to; the melody sets up an expectation of deeper vocals to match. The cheery, up-tempo, acoustic guitar-led “Ocean”, a folk number imbibed with a faint hint of country at times, features interesting lyrics: “Where will you go/Now you’ve changed/Where will go/What will you put in its place.” Given the title, these words bring to mind the image of waves washing up and constantly changing the texture of the shore’s sand.
The mid-tempo “Prima” is led by gently stroked guitars which, with its soft drums and steady piano, gives it quite the pop rock feel with some folksy flavours. The gentle swaying of the guitar-led melody in “Rain” adds a sense of warmth to the song, a coziness of sorts that one associates with being inside a warm home with loved ones while rain pours outside. In the slow tempo, acoustic guitar-led “Flood”, listeners might again have to get used to the vocals as the melody seems to hint at a much deeper voice.
Brant has put together a collection of almost delicate songs that would work well as welcoming, warm background music to any calm, loving, social get-together. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the artist and his music is available on his official website and his Facebook page.
Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.
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