Based in Chicago, Bryan Away, singer and instrumentalist for his music, has been writing and recording music for much of his life. His album The Educated Youth is his first release, and the release is an eclectic collection of Away’s musical ideas. The style and tone changes constantly throughout the album, and each of the seventeen songs gives the listener a new understanding of Away’s music and a different perspective of who he is as a person and as an artist.
Ambient and free, “Opening Sentiments” starts off the record on a fairly experimental note. Unexpected chord changes accompany Away’s soothing voice as he croons softly. Then, the energy of the album picks up in “Far from Circadia,” a joyful ballad, then cruises back down to a relaxing “All the Waiting” a jazzy piece with saxophone and horns providing a soft backdrop to melodic piano playing.
Musical interludes, ranging from ambient noise to instrumental string pieces, are dispersed throughout the record, giving the listener brief rests from the series of vastly different and original sounds created in all of the full-length songs. The interludes are interesting and creative, and they give the album an added boost of originality. After “An Afterthought,” one such interlude, “Tasks” blends spacey synthesizer sounds with solid percussion and a broad vocal soundscape.
“In a Memory” follows with lush strings and piano to generate a dreamlike, harmonious tune as beautiful as it is catchy. Away highlights his ability on guitar in “Ignore the Signs,” in which vocal harmonies add to the quiet, steady plucking in the serene track. The album delves into a slightly more electronic sound in “Vacation” with pulsing synthesizers and distorted drums that build gradually throughout the song.
Away continues to explore more and more musical genres as the album progresses. “I’ll Find My Way” borders between indie rock and classical rock n’ roll, and the traditional full band sound is one the listener will find familiar. “The Engine,” “In Plain Words” and “Off the Page” return to a more experimental style as orchestral instruments provide support for guitar, piano and sparse vocals.
The final track “Off the Page” is perhaps the most memorable song on the entire album, and not simply because it is the last one the listener hears. The contrast between its subdued tone and rich melodies, which hint at building throughout the tune, is a reflection of the previous sixteen songs, and yet the lack of orchestral instruments makes it more accessible to those accustomed to listening to pop music as well. Overall, The Educated Youth is an album Bryan Away should be more than proud of as it shows listeners his talent, ability and potential as a musician.
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