Hailing from Nashville, TN Isak Wilson is a solo artist who recently released his debut EP entitled A Few Thoughts. He touts on his bandcamp page that the EP is as incongruent as it is cohesive. I think that statement is paradox within itself but I know what he is trying to say. Wilson is an artist that is exploring different ideas on this EP. Some of it works while some of it seems forced and unnatural.
Wilson did write all the song as well as recorded, mixed and mastered the album. The production is passable on the acoustic tracks but buckles at the seams when he tries to add distorted guitars, hard hitting drums, etc. Not only is the softer more intimate sounding singer/songwriter material better from an aesthetic perspective but it was obvious to me that his biggest strength lies in melancholy and an acoustic guitar
Wilson starts off with a solid song entitled “Smile, Dear” that sounds like a combination of Modest Mouse and Jack Johnson. It starts off sparse but builds energy as it progresses. The acoustic guitars are tranquil and pretty as Wilson delivers some of his most notable vocal melodies.
The chorus is infectious when he sings “I’ll look forward to the day ahead As an opportunity instead I’ll raise the bars that I’ve set low For I’ve allowed my weaknesses to grow”. The second song “Frank” is a certified tearjerker and is hard not to compare to Bright Eyes. In fact the chorus sounds eerily similar to the song “Lua” from I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. Nevertheless, the song is well-written and has exceptional string parts.
“Movin' On” felt like the most original sounding song out of the five. It’s a break up song that interjects some uplifting poppy moments. The addition of piano was a nice touch as well. Overall, I think this is also Wilsons best vocal performance. He sounds loose here and rolls with the emotion. Very impressive delivery.
Unfortunately, the next song “If” suffers from trying too hard to meld very different sounding styles that instead of feeling seamless feel jarring. The first half is very atmospheric and was enjoyable. The awkward change comes when it all disappears and is replaced by a generic sounding Weezer-esque song. Wilsons vocals don’t sound good here. I give credit to Wilson for trying to be inventive but this song came up short.
The last song “Try” is a bit confusing. I’m not sure why he didn’t just separate this track into two different songs. The first half of “Try” is acoustic based college rock reminiscent of The Violent Femme. It then fades to silence and we are introduced to the “Hidden Track” which is a silly, frivolous song that bears comparison to Weird Al. Why oh why did Wilson decide to end with this when the first three tracks were light years better is beyond my understanding.
A Few Thoughts contains a lot of the typical pitfalls you hear from artists on their first album. That being said the first three songs are pretty strong. If he can find a way to blend those three songs into something that is uniquely Isaac Wilson than I predict good things to come.
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