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REVIEW: BRIAN BERGER – STILL LIFE WITH PRUDENCE

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BRIAN BERGER
STILL LIFE WITH PRUDENCE

Self Released

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Brian Berger is a man who seems to live in the past. His narrative tells the tails of days gone by and, more importantly, the people who went away with them. He sings of the lovers that collected his days and then left him looking on as they faded from vision but not from his memory. Still Life With Prudence, the singer / songwriter’s newest album features the confident, whispery vocals of Berger singing about uncertain times throughout his life . The retrospective lyrical content pairs well with the, at times, modern saloon-esque instrumentation found throughout the album: chopping violin, gently strummed guitars, and glorious harmonica. It’s a theatrical performance on a small and extremely intimate stage.

The album starts with the wobbly sounds of someone scanning through the dead waves of a radio, cranking through static with small bursts of music that seems to offer the narrator no interest before the poetic voice of a stranger (portrayed by Joshua Sites) enters the stage sounding a tad bit like an old radio program, saying  “You’re better equipped for this world than I am, she said. I’m always trying to change the world, you know how to live in it.” These two sentences seem to hold so much about both the narrator but also about the overall path this record takes to get from beginning to end. The old time charm and confidence of Sites voice paired with the faux but pleasantly cheesy radio sound effects create a good glimpse into the feeing and sonic landscape of Still Life, almost standing in as the grand and well spoken inner-voice we all like to believe we have when discussing life with ourselves in our own heads. It’s the voice of Brian’s inner-monologue, describing to us moments of life as if they were projected up onto a movie screen with those who have experienced it watching it replay from their somewhat fabricated memory. It almost questions how we choose to remember the details that surround us, which are hardly exactly how they play out when you are trying to view them from the rearview mirror after leaving many moments ago. Memories sometimes tend to take on a more rehearsed and fine-tuned voice after spinning around in one’s head for a while.

Berger indeed seems to have been living in his head for quite some time, reviewing his past experience and exposing them to those around him to hopefully put a curve in their path so they can learn from his…not so much mistakes but life-lessons. This is done in various ways with multiple shifts in tonality, going from the rag-tag “Fuck You” song of “Cult Preaching Grounds” to the sober realization of being plagued with thoughts of a past someone in the somber toned “Empty Hands Part II (A Song About The Weather).” Each song tends to utilize the base layer of Brian’s voice but then adds on specific instrumentation to match the plot points of the tracks. The song “Empty Hands Part I” sees Brian questioning his own psyche as a strangely playful violin (played by Walter Everton) dances madly around his voice as the pace picks up, threatening to throw the song into utter chaos if not realized. The uphill climb of “Cult Preaching Grounds” also leads to an eventuall collision of drums, guitar, and a gorgeous trumpet proving that Berger knows his way around compositionally crafting songs.

The one time this takes a bit of a strange turn is on the fifth track, “John’s Wounded Pride.” Maybe it’s the attempt to keep gently pushing the sound of each song into a somewhat different scope, but the vocals on this track don’t mesh as well with the instrumentation as on previous songs. Granted, both do function well separately, it tends to get a bit disconnected when paired together. It’s a reasonably small bump in the grand scheme of things, and seems to be forgivable with the chugging guitar plowing through the song and splitting it down the middle, crashing cymbals along the way.

Berger’s voice on Still Life… is a bit reminiscent of a more held together Owen with the pronunciation and sincerity of Ace Enders of The Early November. His voice is surprisingly smooth and composed given the nature of the words coming out of his mouth and the lumps in his throat. The standout track “Boots Of Spanish Leather” sees Berger’s voice pairing wonderfully with a slightly rough but dreamy female voice, a harmonica slowly rolling in the background. The two voices discuss the passage of time and distance between lovers as they consider the space between them and realize that life goes on when the other is gone, and maybe that’s for the best.

Still Life With Prudence takes narrative chances in crafting a theatrical presentation, relying on some tried and true song structuring but also taking to the past to draw inspiration from older radio programs. The narration can sometimes overstay its welcome and the instrumentation momentarily seems a tad bit disconnected from the vocals, but Still Life… is overall an experiment in ebb and flow, chaotic release and expert control. It’s a celebration of what happens when you keep looking forward while remember what’s behind you. But most of all, it’s an introduction to a new, very talented singer-songwriter who we can’t wait to see more of in the future.

The album features Joshua Sites (voiceover), Collin Thomas (drums, organ), Chis Alexeev (bass), Jessica Mann (vocals), Hannah Webster (vocals), Meg Ochs (vocals), Matt Riggen (trumpet), Walter Everton  (French Horn, Violin, Organ, Whistles) and, of course, Brian Berger.

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BRIAN BERGER
STILL LIFE WITH PRUDENCE

Self Released

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Brian Berger is a man who seems to live in the past. His narrative tells the tails of days gone by and, more importantly, the people who went away with them. He sings of the lovers that collected his days and then left him looking on as they faded from vision but not from his memory. Still Life With Prudence, the singer / songwriter’s newest album features the confident, whispery vocals of Berger singing about uncertain times throughout his life . The retrospective lyrical content pairs well with the, at times, modern saloon-esque instrumentation found throughout the album: chopping violin, gently strummed guitars, and glorious harmonica. It’s a theatrical performance on a small and extremely intimate stage.

The album starts with the wobbly sounds of someone scanning through the dead waves of a radio, cranking through static with small bursts of music that seems to offer the narrator no interest before the poetic voice of a stranger (portrayed by Joshua Sites) enters the stage sounding a tad bit like an old radio program, saying  “You’re better equipped for this world than I am, she said. I’m always trying to change the world, you know how to live in it.” These two sentences seem to hold so much about both the narrator but also about the overall path this record takes to get from beginning to end. The old time charm and confidence of Sites voice paired with the faux but pleasantly cheesy radio sound effects create a good glimpse into the feeing and sonic landscape of Still Life, almost standing in as the grand and well spoken inner-voice we all like to believe we have when discussing life with ourselves in our own heads. It’s the voice of Brian’s inner-monologue, describing to us moments of life as if they were projected up onto a movie screen with those who have experienced it watching it replay from their somewhat fabricated memory. It almost questions how we choose to remember the details that surround us, which are hardly exactly how they play out when you are trying to view them from the rearview mirror after leaving many moments ago. Memories sometimes tend to take on a more rehearsed and fine-tuned voice after spinning around in one’s head for a while.

Berger indeed seems to have been living in his head for quite some time, reviewing his past experience and exposing them to those around him to hopefully put a curve in their path so they can learn from his…not so much mistakes but life-lessons. This is done in various ways with multiple shifts in tonality, going from the rag-tag “Fuck You” song of “Cult Preaching Grounds” to the sober realization of being plagued with thoughts of a past someone in the somber toned “Empty Hands Part II (A Song About The Weather).” Each song tends to utilize the base layer of Brian’s voice but then adds on specific instrumentation to match the plot points of the tracks. The song “Empty Hands Part I” sees Brian questioning his own psyche as a strangely playful violin (played by Walter Everton) dances madly around his voice as the pace picks up, threatening to throw the song into utter chaos if not realized. The uphill climb of “Cult Preaching Grounds” also leads to an eventuall collision of drums, guitar, and a gorgeous trumpet proving that Berger knows his way around compositionally crafting songs.

The one time this takes a bit of a strange turn is on the fifth track, “John’s Wounded Pride.” Maybe it’s the attempt to keep gently pushing the sound of each song into a somewhat different scope, but the vocals on this track don’t mesh as well with the instrumentation as on previous songs. Granted, both do function well separately, it tends to get a bit disconnected when paired together. It’s a reasonably small bump in the grand scheme of things, and seems to be forgivable with the chugging guitar plowing through the song and splitting it down the middle, crashing cymbals along the way.

Berger’s voice on Still Life… is a bit reminiscent of a more held together Owen with the pronunciation and sincerity of Ace Enders of The Early November. His voice is surprisingly smooth and composed given the nature of the words coming out of his mouth and the lumps in his throat. The standout track “Boots Of Spanish Leather” sees Berger’s voice pairing wonderfully with a slightly rough but dreamy female voice, a harmonica slowly rolling in the background. The two voices discuss the passage of time and distance between lovers as they consider the space between them and realize that life goes on when the other is gone, and maybe that’s for the best.

Still Life With Prudence takes narrative chances in crafting a theatrical presentation, relying on some tried and true song structuring but also taking to the past to draw inspiration from older radio programs. The narration can sometimes overstay its welcome and the instrumentation momentarily seems a tad bit disconnected from the vocals, but Still Life… is overall an experiment in ebb and flow, chaotic release and expert control. It’s a celebration of what happens when you keep looking forward while remember what’s behind you. But most of all, it’s an introduction to a new, very talented singer-songwriter who we can’t wait to see more of in the future.

The album features Joshua Sites (voiceover), Collin Thomas (drums, organ), Chis Alexeev (bass), Jessica Mann (vocals), Hannah Webster (vocals), Meg Ochs (vocals), Matt Riggen (trumpet), Walter Everton  (French Horn, Violin, Organ, Whistles) and, of course, Brian Berger.

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