Brendan James

Noble Steed Music, 2013

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


New Hampshire's Brendan James plays the sort of piano rock that brings us back to the '70s with the spirit of Bob Dylan or Paul Simon but that also wouldn't be out of place on a bill with Damien Rice. Like much young talent in the 2000's, James was stuck in major label mergers for years, but has since been label hopping and self-releasing his thought provoking and warm music while building up an unwavering and increasing fan base. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Simplify, his fifth album, is some of his most developed and bold work to date, often using his shimmering piano to deliver urgent stories and even offering advice. “Windblown” starts off the album softly, but the wordplay is direct, a calling for others to examine the direction of their lives. “The New Plan” tackles the always-controversial idea of guns and the constant violence we face, and the title track "Simplify" is just that, a protest to the abundance of technology that exists today.

If you're on the side of the fence where lyrical content isn't so much your concern, tracks like the sing-a-long and upbeat “Hillary” are pure fun with some tropical feelings, while the soothing ballad of “Constellations” is a perfect way to relax. The aching strings in "He Loved" sound ever so graceful and on "Ignorant Man," he hits some impressively high notes. James has a keen sense of melody that is constantly employed here, and his songs are engaging, memorable and timeless, often bringing to mind a younger Billy Joel or a more sophisticated Ryan Adams.

As someone who is all too familiar with today's addiction to technology and its seemingly never ending distractions from real life, listening to Simplify is like seeing a rotary phone in a sea of iPhones. It reminds us that not everything needs to be overly complicated and that sometimes less is more means we could extract more from the journey that is life. Whatever path you're on, this album is a great companion.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2013 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Noble Steed Music, and is used for informational purposes only.