Souls Be Found is a high school project turned confessional manifesto and, like the earnest outpouring representing this period in life, it's as disjointed and confusing as it is somber and sweet.
There are countless ideas stuffed into this patchwork. The album charts a natural course, with loosely the first half packing multiple melodies, harmonies, layers and varied instrumentation into each track, while the latter songs offer a more stripped down, traditional lo-fi indie music or so-called bedroom rock.
Naifey very clearly takes great inspiration from early Sufijan Stevens, but there are parallels to several other artists present here. There's a childish sense of optimism and awe akin to Passion Pit's first album, while the vocals swirl, mount and layer in saccharine falsetto much like Animal Collective or Architecture in Helsinki. The early tracks that pack ideas and melodies to the gills are akin to Kevin Barne's early Of Montreal recording, while shadows of The Shins are present throughout. As the album progresses towards a more simple direction, Sufijan Steven's influence is again evident, but this time peppered with the sweet sadness of Elliott Smith.
While the progression of the album may mirror a narrative arc, in simple terms of effectiveness of the songs, the album grows and improves as it strips away parts, baggage and stops overtaxing rudimentary recording technology. Recorded with Garage Band: on one hand it's an accomplishment that it sounds as good as it does for using such a simplistic and limited tool, but on the other, the limitations are evident in occasional clipping or individual instrument/vocal tracks not quite lining up properly.
The early tracks that pile on the layers of instruments oftentimes rely on the native Garage Band pads/instruments—which can work fine adding a little depth or filling a sound out, but can feel forced or unnatural when used front and center. But, by the end of the album, when the songs are much more prone to being mainly vocals and a guitar, the songwriting, playing and great vocal harmonies are allowed to simply present themselves without the distraction of uneven layers. In doing so, the song “Survival,” as well as the title track, make for great late album additions: simple, delicate, round and sweet.
It's hard to separate the album from it's inception. It's quite remarkable for a glorified high school art project, as well as for the amount of success Naifey has channeling such a myriad of ideas through Garage Band. It's also an impressive one-man show, as Souls Be Found is entirely the outpouring of 18-year-old New Brunswick native, Nathan MacDonald, who wrote, performed, recorded and mastered the whole endeavor.
Souls Be Found is a work of earnest, unfettered youthful expression. This unbridled sense of skeptical optimism, unacknowledged naivety, cloaked in wistfully wizened feelings of forlorn seep from every corner of the album. This array of youthful, conflicting emotions and dire sense of consequence glaringly stand in duality, as the work's strongest attributes and greatest liability. There's a lot of ambition present here, yet the album is strongest when it steps back and simply lets the songs speak for themselves.
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