Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sliding the Same Way

David Thomas Broughton was someone I developed a liking for when I unexpectedly befriended an album of his close to ten years ago. His unconventional voice, somewhere between Antony Hegarty and Scott Walker (but not, you know, young Scott Walker), is somehow simultaneously jarring and elegant, but brings neither the gender ambiguity of Hegarty nor the "I've gone and left the real world" quality that Walker now seems to possess.

"Although I'm an unshaven boozer I do all my drinking in town" is an odd chorus with which to harmonize, but I think it sums up Broughton somewhat well. He is confrontational and, at least through his music, comes off as a loner as genuinely as one can, but you feel like he can hold his own; you never feel the need to sympathize with him. Were moving to South Korea not something that geeky American white men do when they're finding themselves, and were it not for the fact that music tends to be an outlet for what doesn't come out in real life, I'd also say that there's a hint of something dangerous or ill or otherwise off in Broughton, and this is the thing that separates him from all the other folk (or "folk") songwriters out there, that it scares me a bit to think about all the people he might be under the fa├žade of songwriter. And in a strange way, I don't want this documentary about him to come to fruition, because it will realistically burst the myth and show a very normal man who happens to be a good storyteller.

Sliding the Same Way is a collaboration with London-based, female a cappella ensemble Juice, who come the closest Broughton can get to a backing band without overshadowing his subtleties. The trio adds a fairy tale-like quality to Broughton's songs -- maybe this is what Joanna Newsom was good for, maybe Vashti Bunyan as well. And maybe this speaks to the fact that there is no replacement for feminine energy, which is all over this record. The presence of Juice creates imagery, of wooded forest, elves and fairies, all the things that ought to be embarrassing to conjure up but somehow aren't in this context. But then there's "Been a While," where Juice purr their way beneath "I asked the winter/the winter he said/'I may chill you but I don't wish you dead'/then why do I lay here in the ground?"

And further still, Broughton's tone, the one that says he has nothing to lose -- the very thing that makes you curious and then keeps you feeling uncomfortable all the way through -- this remains the driving force behind the record, despite the graceful women behind him: "I will glass everyone/all you pricks in this bar/it may not be the promise I had intended."

Matthew over at Song, by Toad, who's releasing this album, also happens to be a blogger and marvelous writer, and this is what he as music blogger, publicist, and label owner happens to say about Broughton's new release:

This album has everything on it which made me want to work with David in the first place, most obviously that incredible ability to make ostensibly small shifts in mood which can take you from weird to confrontational to playful to heart-breaking and right back again in the blink of a an eye. Just as you steel yourself for something abrasively strange to happen, you get something layered, melodic and beautiful. And just before it all gets too heavy, brief, almost throwaway little ditties like Woodwork crop up.

Pre-order Sliding the Same Way, which gets released on September 22.

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