After his tour with Switchfoot, Bryce Avary released his newest album, Life Will Write The Words. My last post in the music category was a review of one of those shows with Switchfoot, and as such it is only appropriate that I give his newest album a review as well. Rather than linking each individual song to a YouTube video, I included the full album in one place, which can be heard here.
Enjoy the review. Please share my blog and the album with you friends, and of course, give each song a few listens before casting judgment.
1. “Run And Don’t Stop” is the album’s lead single and was played on The Rocket Summer’s tour with Switchfoot. This track strikes me as the one with the most classic Rocket Summer sound to it. To that end, it risks blending in the rest of his work, but is held up by some of his best guitar work including solos at the 2:17 and 3:09 marks and its highly metaphorical lyrics, which I’m still working on deciphering. Some of my favorite lyrics are the opening lines:
“A desert rain is falling
A southern cold in July.”
and this mind bender:
“The tree bearing apple now bears a lime…”
2. “Revival” is another album single that was played on the Switchfoot tour. It’s a very catchy track with great contrasts between the soft piano at parts, passionate vocal delivery (even a faded scream around the 3:06 mark), and vowel utterances that are the trademark of the song (you know, like a modern-day version of shooby do wop).
3. “Prove It” seems to be about a very specific situation Bryce Avary experienced with a woman holding a grudge from long ago. Despite the guitar solo at the 2:34 mark, the song is bit too poppy and a let down after the first two tracks.
4. “Old Love ” is a tribute to the very notion of selfless love, and a solid track, but the vocal delivery is just slightly off from some of the stronger tracks.
5. “200,000” is one of the album’s pre-release singles. After an awkwardly choppy piano intro it settles into smooth verses and a passion filled chorus that makes “200,000” one of the best song on the album. The lyrics,
“There are not one, but two hundred thousand miles on my car. To be with I’ve driven far, but I loved you that much”
ring loudly in this anthem of love, likely written to his high school sweetheart–now wife–Tara. If not for the (intentionally) choppy piano work at parts of the song I’d be tempted to give it a higher rating, but as is, I feel comfortable stopping just short of giving it an excellent score.
6. “Just For A Moment Forget Who You Are” asks the listener to forget for a moment who they think they are, and remember that they were made in an image of greatness. While that notion is something worth some mental mastication, the song doesn’t blow one away and is just another quality song on the album.
7. “Circa ’46” is somewhat similar to “200,000” in it’s intentionally choppy piano work (this time overlayed with snapping fingers), but otherwise very different. After the similar start, “Circa ’46” delivers the lyrics for which the album is named:
“Life will write the words, but you choose your own melody.”
8. “Underrated” is a fun and enjoyable tune that should resonate with many listeners who feel underrated or unappreciated. It is light, but upbeat and an overall good track.
9. “Soldiers” is the album’s first attempt at an acoustic ballad, and it is somewhat mediocre. It pales in comparison to the best songs of the album. Maybe additional listens and delving into the lyrics will “open my eyes,” or more aptly, my ears. It is one of Avary’s favorite tracks on the album though.
10. “The Rescuing Type” is another fun an enjoyable tune, much like “underrated.” It is upbeat and thoughtful. “Be the rescuing type. Be reckless, be bright.” It doesn’t stand out as one of the album’s better songs, but it is solid nonetheless.
11. “Scrap Book” is a second effort at a piano ballad. The stellar piano work carries the song, and the last 50 seconds introduce the electric guitar into the mix
12. “Ashes Made of Spades,” Hallelujah! Track 12 is the best song on the album both for its guitar work and its lyrical content.
“Standing in the streams without a branch to rescue me and pull me from the tormenting. Will I die here in the water? I closed my eyes so I could see then there grew a tree out of my belief.”
I think it is somewhat clear what this metaphor is describing, but I’ll let you arrive to the conclusion on your own (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I asked him in person at a concert in Charlotte and his answer is here).
Rarely does an artist save the best for last. Not only that, but the best part of the entire album starts almost exactly halfway through the song around the 2:25 point, when the intensity really picks up. The album ends with Bryce Avary screaming “Oh My Light!” with all the passion that built up throughout the song and then a nice guitar outro.
Life Will Write The Words 7.5/10
Overall, the album lived up to my expectations. This was the first self-produced album for Bryce Avary after leaving his record label to explore more creative freedom. Strong lyrical content is the hallmark of the album, so I tried to include some interesting snippets that I hope you enjoyed.
Thanks for reading! As always, please subscribe to this blog by clicking the “Follow” button at the top of the right sidebar. If you don’t have a WordPress account, you’ll have to enter your email address. You can share your opinions in the comment section below or by tweeting to @Ryan_Kantor.
Thanks for the insightful review of each song. I’m going to start with “200,000” first. 🙂
Thanks for reading.
Are you on drugs? Go get your ears checked and listen to the album a few more times before you write a review. You say a song is good and then you give it a 6? And his “awkward piano bits”?! That’s signature Bryce Avary…have you heard his other albums? Stick to your day job and don’t become a music reviewer.
No, I am not in fact on drugs. Reviewing albums and movies is exceedingly difficult, at least when you apply a quantitative measure.
Refer to this blog post about its difficulties: http://tommydtalksmovies.com/2011/09/12/the-difficulties-of-reviewing-movies/
“Ashes Made of Spades” is the best song on the album, but I wouldn’t put it in the greatest songs of all time so a 9.5 is pretty darn good. It’s much better than every other song so an 8 for “200,000” is appropriate. I could give 200,000 a higher rating, but then I would be implying that it is better than “Promises, Promise” from If Not Now When which I reviewed nearly a year ago, and it is not. Accordingly, I cannot just push all the ratings to 7.5s and leave no differentiation between songs. I attempt to qualify lower ratings in the commentary.
As for the choppy piano play, I think “200,000” is a great song, but the intro isn’t. That’s my take. “Colors” and “So Much Love” two of his greatest songs don’t have choppiness in them.
I appreciate you reading the blog, but please be respect in future comments. I hope you will respond.
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“Soldiers” is NOT a piano ballad. You don’t even hear a single piano note on there. Don’t pay attention to the music video. The song is just his voice and his guitar.
I have no idea why I called it a piano ballad. Meant to just say “ballad.” It has been corrected. This is a great album, I’m going to see him in concert soon.
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