If you follow the indie beat, then you’re already aware that the last few years have been a watershed era for alternative singer/songwriters. Whether strange and surreal or reminiscent of classical themes, these players have been cratering the underground like few others, and this summer, Brendan Staunton joins their ranks with an album of his own in Last of the Light. Bucking some of the more minimalistic trends of the season, Staunton experiments with the foundations of folk-rock in tracks like “Mean to You,” “Stop Believing,” “A Moment” and “A Girl,” taking inspiration from the greats but making sure to separate his artistic identity from that of his influences. His efforts produce some startlingly smart results, with lyrical narratives being woven into the context of musical moods that seem to reflect deep-rooted feelings within our leading man. He’s never passive with his words, nor the melodies that come attached to, and while there’s a lot of room to break down each of the tracks included in this nine-song set, there’s no getting around the talent that Brendan Staunton has as both a singer and a storyteller.
Last of the Light is actually pretty beat-heavy, with tracks like “Stop Believing,” “We Don’t Talk About It,” “Underwater” and “Nine Day Wonder” featuring some of the more accessible grooves I’ve heard on an indie singer/songwriter LP in a long time. The percussion acts as another tool with which Staunton imparts his moodiness to us, and through his insistence on using every weapon at his disposal here, it’s difficult to walk away from the tracklist without feeling something. He’s got such a way with words, and the music is a constant reflection of their emotional substance (especially in songs like “River” and “Smiled”).
The vocal is the undisputed star of the show in “A Moment” and the wispy “Mean to You,” but it’s only through Staunton’s disciplined approach to the lyricism in Last of the Light that we’re able to enjoy his crooning in all of its true glory. He isn’t just singing pretty tunes in this LP; he’s got something he wants to tell us – a confession of both self and surroundings, if you will.
Though not without a couple of excusable cosmetic flaws, this debut solo album from Brendan Staunton is as lean and mean as they come. Last of the Light doesn’t try to be larger than life, nor does it push the envelope any further than Staunton is capable of – he’s too skilled a player for that to happen. This record does make me want to hear more vocal-centric work from him in the future, as the moments in which his voice is the primary epicenter of magic feel like the most profound the album has to offer.
His singing is his secret weapon, and if he stays focused on refining that element within his sound, I think he’s going to have a winning ticket with this present blueprint. He has my support, and likely that of singer/songwriter connoisseurs everywhere this season.
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