Slow down, stay a while and unwind with something like you have never heard before. Troy, NY natives, BURLY, have created a lush, warm and plain relaxing collection sure to help you let go of the days struggles – sinking into your chair for a spell. You won’t find anything else like it, and it just might be your odd cup of tea you never knew you needed.
The album is laced with jazz, folk and indie influences with poetic lyrics layered over the top of each track. They’re literally poems. The “Infinite Broken” lyrics are lifted directly from one of the non-performing member’s own poems. Lyrically, it’s intriguing. But what really sets this group apart is the instrument arrangement: jazz inspired percussion, airy guitar, breathy saxophone, thoughtful bass and mellowing vibraphone. This ensemble is reminiscent of pivotal jazz groups and it’s warming to see a modern revival of this set up. That being said, the group is still in their grassroots stages, so there is a lot of experimentation happening here. We find rockish songs, ones with a western feel and some that are plain melancholy.
We start out with “Branches of Blood” and to be honest, the whole song is perplexing. Highly interpretive lyrics, unique instrumentation and odd time signatures and tempos make the song intriguing, and a bit discomforting. But it’s still very good. It’s obvious that everything is done with intention and diligence. The fact that the group can evoke so many emotions within the songs is incredible. It’s a great way to kick off the album, but as stated before, things keep changing.
Another one of their best is “Happy Birthday 2001,” a song about a “half-remembered birthday party of a high school friend.” Lyrically, it’s pretty comical because we’ve all been to those awkward parties, finding the piano in the basement and “stabbing at the piano keys,” playing video games and “smoking weed out of a corn cob pipe” and “talking to cousins, trying not to seem like a kid”. Beyond that, we find a style that’s high energy and rockish, a much different feel compared to the rest of the album. Yet, it still holds a jazzy feel thanks to the vibraphone and sax. “Happy Birthday 2001” gives an otherwise cringeworthy story, a light hearted and airy feel. It’s just fun to listen to.
“Kent Lame” brings the vibe down. Way down. We’re told a story about, what we can only suspect, is drugs use and the effect it has on people. “I met crystal hazard… two days with two friends of mine confused on acid.” One can only assume. It’s accompanied by a very fitting tone – a soft bed of slow and deliberate instrumentation. This is the vein of the group and they’ve mastered it.
This is one of the most interesting albums I’ve heard in a long time. And although BURLY has done an incredible job creating such a unique atmosphere, I would hope to see more work like “Happy Birthday 2001” in the near future. And whatever you do, don’t get rid of that vibraphone.
Key Tracks: Branches of Blood, Happy Birthday 2001, Kent Lame