Brandon Neal - Abrandon Ship | Album Review

The good-humored wittiness in the album’s title should already have listeners slightly clued up as to what they will experience with Brandon Neal’s debut release, even for those who haven’t noticed the young songwriter making a name for himself up and down England over the past year. The title track takes the form of a chugging Tom Waits-esque introduction which builds nicely into the melancholic fingerstyle playing behind “Repetitive Routine”. The vocal delivery sounds surprisingly polished for a singer on his first release, and by the end of the track it’s clear that Neal has been honing his craft well in the recording studio.

The mood changes suddenly for “What A Wannabe” as Neal ditches the minor key for a sudden acoustic-thrash of an intro before launching into a ranting look at the music industry with cynicism reminiscent of Frank Turner. The acoustic punk influences on Neal’s songwriting remain clear throughout the rest of the album; whilst it does begin to sound a little too familiar at times, the album definitely doesn’t hesitate in occasionally trying out something new. The subject matter remains solidly on modern life for “Autopilot”, a skeptical glance at what Neal dubs “the machine age” of being replaced in the workplace. It’s refreshing, especially in a time when too many singer-songwriters end up writing love song after brokenhearted love song, to hear modern commentary delivered from a new performer with so much passion.

The obligatory love songs are present, of course, but even “Pixel Dreams” manages to make them sound somewhat fresh with quirky video game homages placed not-so-subtly throughout. Transposing the song to a lower key might be kinder on Neal’s voice though, especially as it begins to sound somewhat strained in those choruses. “Out of Time” provides another thrash around that may sound great someday in the future with a backing band, before “His Last Mistake” returns to the familiar Frank Turner-style. Whilst it makes for an enjoyable song, Neal should probably be wary of mimicking his influences too much and not emulating them.

“Lost in the Dark” manages to showcase some solid guitar playing, as another fast-paced song that manages not to lose too much of the sound behind the heavy strikes to the strings. “Bird Song” changes the pace yet again, not letting the sound become too stale, for a gentle pop song featuring some enjoyable female guest vocals. The album is then closed up by “Life of the Party” in a satisfying and catchy, albeit slightly sad, way; as the singer quietly recounts a story of infidelity to a lighter guitar sound.

Something that is surprising for a debut release is the production quality and just how good it sounds, pristinely recorded and far clearer than even many signed artists manage. The sound is polished, but not overproduced; exactly what an album like this needs to make the varied guitar playing and mostly-strong vocal technique shine through.

Score: 8/10



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