I have decided, after listening to John Shorts’ album Patchwork Panorama that the instrument of the year in 2014 is undeniably the ukulele. Long heralded for its role in traditional folk music and as the soundtrack for people getting buzzed at music festivals, here the ukulele tells a different story: one of life, love and gritty independent will.
The album is nice and balanced, with themes that occur in duplicate but are spaced out. It starts off with, and contains a few, love songs – but be forewarned, they aren’t the Disney princess fairytales we come to expect from love songs. In “I Always Knew” things start sweetly enough before taking a very sharp cliff dive into rocky territory. “Barefoot In The Grass,” which occurs near the end of the album, follows a similar trajectory. There are almost some odes to the darker months in the year. “Winter” does a great job describing the bleakness of the season, with lyrics that are suitably depressing despite the plucky supporting instrument, and “February” follows in suit.
What caught my attention the most, and really sold me on this album, were the more unique offerings. Take, for instance, the song “Everything’s Fucked” which is even trademarked, which has to be the brightest, happiest, most energetic depressing song I’ve ever heard. The rolling drums, which make their first appearance in this song, are the perfect driving force. Another high-energy song was “The Church And The Steeple,” the defiant anthem of any twenty-something who grew up going to church but now refuses to return despite the various curses and threats of eternal damnation.
I got to hear an entirely new side of the ukulele in “I Need You;” a sharp, darker personality exudes from the usually bright instrument. There is a touch of desperation woven all throughout, and the chorus is admittedly very catchy. And “Party (Interlude)” was one minute of far out synth-goodness that reminded me of hazy moments on a crowded dance floor in a frat house with glow sticks and keg beer in red solo cups.
“Words You Said” started normal enough, though the listener never really gets to know what the “words” in question were – where the answer would be, we are instead greeted by a melodic and earworm worthy medley of “la laaaa, lala la la laaa laaa.” Spending too much time contemplating what those sounds symbolize results in being blindsided by a rapid verse I can only describe as John Shorts ‘spitting hot fire.’ The story told in just that section is more than worth a few rewinds to catch every single word.
“Come On Back” was a legitimately sweet way to end the album, with the music really giving a sense of longing and the feeling of missing someone. The sharp notes come back out to play, which really give the main riff character. I was hoping for and got goose bumps when the sound evolved to include more instruments and layers; this song made the album go out in style.
This album was everything I didn’t know I wanted it to be. I’m really not all that partial to folk music or the ukulele in general (as it usually is very bright and happy) but I liked how a lot of the songs here were down-tuned to add some edge. I also like how the lyrics were incredibly engaging and honest; because of that, along with some truly nice riffs and a few variances in instrumentation, this album kept me intrigued from start to finish and I know I’ll be adding a few of these songs to my “favorite songs” playlists. This was definitely a lot of fun to listen to and I greatly enjoyed it.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook