Justin Nast is an artist who recently released Eight-Track Hi-Fi. He recorded the demo live and it revolves around only his guitar and vocals. I’ve said it before that if you are going to try and keep someone's attention with a guitar and vocal you better have some variation. There aren’t many artists who can pull this off but there are of course exceptions like Sufjan Stevens, Kristian Matsson and Devendra Banhart to name a few. Unfortunately Eight-Track Hi-Fi rides a consistent wave of songs that sound interchangeable. Every song has a tinge of melancholy and relies on basic chord progressions. Except for the beginning of the last song Nast strums his chords, which makes the songs even more inseparable.
The lack of variation is by far the worst culprit on this demo. To his credit the songwriting is good if somewhat predictable and simple. Nast has a good voice. His delivery feels natural even if the melancholy in his vocals rings with the trope of the tortured artist living a bohemian style relying on nothing else then his pain and guitar.
The demo starts with “Why Is Your Heart Still Broken” which more or less revolves around one main chord progression. This song would have fared better around two-and-a-half minutes instead of stretching it out to almost six. “Dear Priscilla” is more condensed and more effective. It veers on the side of folk and is one of the highlights. With more instrumentation a song like “Just A Bore” could easily be a pop/rock song from a ‘90s band like Marcy’s Playground.
Aside from his singing, the lyrics are Nast’s biggest strength with this release. Nast should be able to keep your attention with the narrative even if it ultimately revolves around the cliché of boy meets girl. Lyrics like, “I listen to punk rock cause I know is all about you” is one of the better lines, which showcases some of his lyrical creativity. “Who We Are” is another song that reminds me of a ‘90s alternative band while the closer is a highlight.
If Nast is going to continue with this style of basic strummed chords on a guitar he might as well get a backing band. Some of these songs could definitely work with more instrumentation and give more dynamics to the music. If he is going to stick to being a solo act it may behoove him to at the very least have a couple of songs that contain intricate guitar picking as well as a couple songs that feel a little more lively and upbeat.
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