Almost since the very start, the musical collective led by Matt Hickman, known as ‘brownbear’, have caused something of a stir, not just on the Scottish music scene, but further afield. April 20th 2018 will surely see them only add to this popularity, with the release of What is Home? , their long-awaited and highly anticipated debut long player.
Full disclosure for fellow folkies; it is acoustic, but not overly folkie, while at the same time, it is mostly band-backed without being ‘rocky’. Perhaps rather than trying to pigeonhole it as something or other, one might as well simply embrace for what it is…and that is a very enjoyable debut album by a very gifted singer-songwriter.
The album opens with the catchy as hell ‘Covers’, which despite its up-beat melody, boasts a sense of heart-breaking melancholy in the lyric: “I pull back the covers, to find you have another lover…at that moment I realise, I’m the one whose living lies, because you’ve already moved on”.
From here, the momentum only builds, as singles ‘Wandering Eyes’ and ‘Truth Without Consequences’ are placed back-to-back, followed by the comparatively bare ‘Olive Tree’, where Hickman’s convincing mix of catchy melody and poignant lyric can once again be found, particularly in the song’s hook “ …it’s with the heaviest of hearts I say I’ll see you in heaven”.
It is described as an album which deals with the subjects of “love, loss and growing” yet amid the recording’s more reflective lyrics, the musically up-beat numbers prove equally inescapable; ‘The Wrong Team’, ‘Only For You’ and an album version of the 2016 single ‘Stop the World’. Fittingly, the record bows out on the title track, as we once again see the more laid back approach to brownbear’s versatile songwriting, making for a strong finish to a strong album.
With the diary filling up with forthcoming festival slots and album tour dates, the release of What is Home? (as noted) will surely only be the next step for a musician (and group of musicians) overdue big things, but it’s a damn exciting step at that. Regardless of what this comes to retrospectively represent or what it may pave the way for, as an album, on its own terms, it is a really and truly great piece of work.
Christopher James Sheridan
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‘Truth Without Consequence’ – official video: