Monday, July 13, 2015

Album Review: "Big People" by Max Gowan - Songs From His Bedroom

Max Gowan makes bedroom recordings literally from his bedroom. When you listen to the thick intimate sweep of the first track Rare Thing it is a little hard to believe. Max who is only 18 years old also plays all the instruments. The push on Rare Thing is gentle. There is an understated sadness, emotions that feel a bit muted which is always even more sad. There is also a utterly measured quality to the song, maybe almost too much. This may be just a function of having to play all the instruments and making it all work cohesively.

The musicality is solid. Window is beautifully sad. I have to admit I thought of Elliot Smith, even saw his face as I listened. This song is full of tears.  Other artists that I flashed on were Kurt Vile and especially Ben Kweller. Yes, there is a Kweller-esque niceness to the songs and that kind of tenderness too. My tastes stray to darker places a bit and I can't help but think that Max's songs might soar even more if they were less perfectly rendered. One such song is Bend, there is a rush, harried quality. Not every note is spot on time, it is like life, busy, varied and sometimes feels like a mess but such a lovely one. Once of my favorite songs on the album, I think the off kilter sense and occasional off kilter notes give the song a heart and pulse.

The title track, Big People is a kind of slow waltz of a song. It has a very cool framework with (again) a muted emotional sound. It hits and misses a bit. I think it would benefit from a more intimate vocal sound to pull the listener in. The trippy ending was surprising and appreciated. Max's songs are folk songs at heart but the almost upside down sound of The Stumble is really cool as is the track Everything Is Cool which is one of my favorite songs on the album. I mentioned Kurt Vile before and this one has that kind of run down the street feel. Max's voice shines on this although I wanted to hear him push his voice a bit more (even strain a bit).

In the end "Big People" is an album full of heartfelt songs. I do think that there are light and dark aspects of playing all the instruments. On one hand, you can realize your total solitary vision. On the other hand you lose those human walls to bounce ideas off of and the wonderful contributions of sound and inspiration from other musicians, other muses. "Big People" in all it's glory feel like it is standing behind a curtain. There is something (what I don't know) beckoning Max to step though into the light, a brilliant light. He is almost there and I am eager to watch and listen to his journey.

My favorite songs on this album are Rare Thing, Bend, The Stumble and Everything Is Cool. I hope you listen intently to Big People and find your favorites.

Robb Donker

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