Broken Boat wear their hearts, and their influences, on their sleeves. In the nine years since Bright Eyes released I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning many have attempted to emulate their brand of americana-inspired indie-rock with revealing songs of vulnerability and loss. There are few, though, who have done so as successfully as this impressive debut album from Broken Boat. The trio of singer-songwriter Daniel Bahrami and multi-instrumentalists Brendan Kearney and Jess Hart have created an enjoyable mix of upbeat, country and folk-inspired indie accompanied by intimate, revealing lyrics.
The album begins with the driving beat of Small Defeats. The bouncy bass line and horn section paint a joyful picture that is quickly dispelled by the opening line, “Hey Joe I heard you lost your job on Monday.” The upbeat music continues to disguise a melancholy and darkly humorous message in lines such as: “Sat across from lovers on a subway/ They shared a smile and shared their headphones too/ And I couldn’t help but think they’d break up one day/ And I couldn’t help but hope that day was soon.” This is balanced by the hopeful repeated chorus of “I’m alive”.
Pencil Memories is a gently contemplative song about moving away and losing touch with friends. Bahrami’s downbeat delivery is perfectly accompanied by a plaintive steel guitar and Hart’s backing vocals.
The theme of loss reappears in Song In D, and again it is accompanied by hope. Bahrami’s uses a low-key, almost spoken word, vocal approach to deliver a tale of love lost and possibly regained, accompanied by a gently strummed guitar line and tender steel guitar.
There is no doubting that this album owes a large debt to Conor Oberst’s lyrics and delivery, however, this is no mere pastiche but the sound of a band finding their voice. The album’s highlight, though, sees the band move beyond their influences with the truly original Morning Rain. The song begins with a French-style accordion and opens into a duet from Bahrami and Hart plotting a course through a dysfunctional relationship with the repeated chorus: “I’m sorry to say that he’s/she’s just not the same as the boy/ girl that I loved long ago.”
The album’s closing song Time Takes Us All is a fitting account of finding in hope in times of loss. The mood of the album is more or less summed up in the lines: “When I’m gone and my body’s in the clay/ Don’t put no cross or stone above me/ Let it grow let it grow its roots through me.” If Broken Boat can continue to find such positivity in the face of such defeats, both small and otherwise, then they have a bright future ahead. Having already played a string of live shows across Europe, and with a UK tour planned this summer, this could well be the year in which the band break through to a wider audience.
Review by: Alfred Archer
Self-Released 21 July
Pre-order here: http://www.brokenboat.co.uk/product/small-defeats/
30 – The Blueberry Music House Norwich,
31 – Gillespie Folk Club Poulton-Le-Fylde,
01 – Full Moon Club Cardiff,
02 – Miss Peapod Penryn,
06 – The Square and Compass Swanage,
07 – The Green Note London,
09 – Boomtown Festival Hampshire,
10 – The Prince Albert Stroud,
11 – The Bell Bath,
14 – The Old Duke Bristol,
16 – Just So Festival Cheshire,
17 – The Queens head Farnham,