A newer band from New Orleans (they came together in spring of this year), Graham Cooper & Company plays straightforward folk rock with an ear for tempo changes and lyrical sharpness. The band is fronted by Graham Cooper, in case there were any misconceptions.
The opener on Circles, "The Footprints of Maggie Mae," is an upbeat-sounding little drama about a city girl who initially we're supposed to sympathize with. But at the song's end, Cooper inverts those feelings: "Maggie Mae is a shitty girl / she has devil's eyes and her momma's curls." It's a surprising and surprisingly blunt, though weirdly satisfying, way to end the song. Cooper is just as forward in "All I Have Are My Reasons," which seems to use a much more prominent bass sound with composition leaning toward emo-pop. At the end, Cooper confirms, "I have nothing to defend / only I know where I stand."
"My Father's Imaginary Friend (Zephyrr Jones)" is much more stripped down, with plodding percussion and dusty guitar twang barely sustaining Cooper's sentiments on the relationship between a man and his father (fairly confident there's some major issues). "Only Second Best (The Scotch Tape Session)" takes the lo-fi approach, and coupled with the naked emotion Cooper expresses, stands out to me as the most evocative cut on the selection of four. He straight up proclaims, "This writer's block / it gets to me," and though at times throughout Circles it sounds like Cooper is running out of ideas or stretching the ones he already has, the listen is hardly unrewarding.
Circles is a quietly sad listen, even if the music can appear dynamic. Issues of loneliness, inadequacy and emotional pain permeate the album, and the low-key arrangements sharpen the contours of the music's melancholy. It’s not a bad listen.
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