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Todd Christoffel’s “A Brief History of Eternity” LP

Todd Christoffel’s A Brief History of Eternity isn’t the work of a young songwriter despite packing that sort of energy, This fresh and varied set includes electric guitar work from Chris Faget, Christoffel’s bandmate in Seattle’s Don’t Ask, and frequent piano, but the songs revolve around a core of Christoffel’s acoustic guitar and his often surprisingly elastic voice. He adorns the song with an assortment of percussion choices that are particular to each track; sometimes it has a traditional presence, other times less so. Christoffel plants his flag on the side of tradition much of the time, without a doubt, but likewise possesses an eye that takes life from more than just one or two angles.

He isn’t afraid to shake up expectations and does so from the start. “Pure Desire” reflects its title in the theatrically overheated vocals without ever veering into parody. Christoffel’s voice and acoustic guitar are the ballast for all these songs, but it is ultimately the additions that send the material over the top. Faget’s electric guitar covers “Pure Desire” with a rough-hewn texture that makes it a gritter, yet no less melodic, listening experience.

“I Lost An Angel” does an excellent job balancing regret with buoyancy. Sweeting sad songs with just enough light to deepen the listener’s involvement is an art itself and this is one of an assortment of tracks establishing his credentials with such fare. There’s plaintive melancholy in his voice that the DIY production values can’t help but capture. A note about the album sound: these are great songs and, for me, their intimacy is enhanced by the raw and stripped-down production aesthetic. “I Lost an Angel” is a prime example of where that plays better than most.

The slowly developing near-waltz “Paradise” demands a vocal performance fully in-tune with the moment. Christoffel steps up to the plate without a stumble. I admire the way he chooses which words to stretch and which ones to roll out faster; there’s a great deal of thought underpinning this performance without it ever affecting its momentum. “The Truth” bursts out of the speakers led by Faget’s guitar accompanied by Christoffel’s acoustic and diffuse, clattering percussion. It maintains a march-like tempo that stands out on the album and an overall harsher musical demeanor. “I Knew You When” is my nominee for the album’s best songs. Christoffel’s choruses are, across the board, one of the strongest elements in his songwriting, and “I Knew You When” is especially impactful. It is a hard-hitting collision of message and music.

There’s carefree escapist, yet intelligent, charms to the track “Away Away”. It’s a testament to the broad breadth of his skills that Christoffel can land so convincingly in multiple musical worlds. His pop sensibilities are uniquely malleable in a way few others share. He slips into a country mode with the track “The Struggle Is All”, but not the pop country pap pervading airwaves today. It’s another strongly message-oriented song with an emphatic Christoffel vocal capable of blowing through the mix. A Brief History of Eternity is an appropriate title because the album manages to condense his deceptively long songwriting reach into a single statement. It’s bursting with creativity from the first song through the last and is amazingly bereft of filler. 

Mindy McCall



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