Sound — 7
The debut from an artist who will undoubtedly put Irish indie rock back on everyone's radar, Bry's imaginatively named "Bry" is a very promising start to what will, if the trend is followed, be a long and successful career. Anyone who likes the broad range of sound from bands like Snow Patrol will probably feel right at home here. Ranging from slow, emotional acoustic songs to full fledged indie rock, Bry is definitely inspired by those who came before him, while still carving out his own little niche.
It's hard to describe Bry's sound, because it is so varied. Some songs remind you of Ed Sheeran, the slow, emotional acoustic tracks, like "Adventure Time" or "Pieces," while others will have you thinking of Snow Patrol or The Coronas, "Disarm" and "Don't Go Alone" being two examples. In terms of production quality, the tracks all individually feel very polished, but so they should. He has been musically active on YouTube for several years now, and this album contains a lot of songs which aren't all that new. "Your Life Over Mine" has been out since 2012, for example.
The thing which stood out to me when listening is that it lacks overall direction. This isn't something that an artist can particularly be faulted for, especially on a first album, but it doesn't have the cohesion of Coldplay's "Parachutes," or "Hot Fuss" by The Killers. It doesn't have the feeling that you can sit down and listen through the whole album, almost as one continuous story, in the form of multiple different songs. Not to say this is a is a massive weakness however, one of Bry's strengths seems to be the ability to tell impactful and emotionally driven stories in a single track, without them coming across as cliche, or over the top, but the first time I sat down and listened to the album, I thought I was listening on shuffle, because the emotion changed so much song to song that it just felt slightly disjointed. I often found myself reorganising the playing order to alleviate some of the shock of going from quite a loud and emotionally charged song like "Don't Go Alone," to something much more reserved and quiet, like "Adventure Time."
On a very positive note however, I can say that he sounds just as good live as he is recorded. That charming Irish accent adds a certain sincerity to his song writing (or at least for me, maybe I have a bias there), and his insistence on carrying an Irish flag tucked into his waistband throughout the concert gives him the air of someone who is quite dedicated to what he considers important.
If I were to rate each of the songs individually, I'd have chosen a higher rating here, but direction and coherence are big things I look for when sitting down to listen to an album, and Bry just doesn't have that for me. As a bunch of singles however, they're definitely worthy of an 8 or 9.
Lyrics — 9
As this is indie rock along the same vein as Snow Patrol, or even The Script, expect songs about lovers, and people who have turned him down in the past. Listen closely though, and some of the songs which may come across as simply catchy, or even cheeky in their lyrics might actually be a lot deeper than first imagined.
"You're Alright" may sound like a bit of Irish humour, but it's written about his sister who had overcome cancer. "Don't Go Alone" sounds like quite an upbeat song, but in reality is about a friend of Bry's who had committed suicide, and the lyrics reflect Bry's regret at not being able to see it, or prevent it from happening.
He achieves so much of this emotional story telling without ever needing to resort to cliche sounding lyrics, or typical sad sounding melodies that lesser artists might have to resort to. Even in his slower more deliberately emotional songs, his vocal style, the accent, that slight lisp, they all help to provide and atmosphere of closeness. This is not an artist who will autotune their way to musical perfection. Bry will embrace these quirks of his musical performance, and the songs are all the better for it.
Overall Impression — 8
As I've said before if you're looking for an album which could well be the spawn of Passenger and Keane, then look no further. The album has all bases covered, and provides plenty of variation, so even if you aren't quite feeling it for one or two songs, you've got plenty left to listen to.
Some of the stand-outs that I find myself listening to on loop are "Disarm," "Don't Go Alone," "Everything" and "Adventure Time." The first three are probably the most energetic on the album, while "Adventure Time" just pulls me in with the very raw sounding acoustic and piano combination. It seems as if Bry feels similarly, as these tend to be his set-list for any live appearances, as they were when he supported Twenty One Pilots in Brussels, where I first heard him.
In conclusion, this album is definitely worth picking up, even as a sign of things to come. At this stage, if Bry decides to follow any of the possible directions this album could provide, it'll be well worth checking out whatever comes next. I just hope that the next release will sound a little more structured.