Oliver James Brooks is a Canadian singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from a small town in Ontario. Divide & Conquer reviewed his debut album A Turn in the Bend as well as his single “The Fading House.” He is back with a song entitled “Set Free.” The only info I had about this song was what I read. He mentions, “This song was written in response to the current state of our planet. The turmoil in which we live has reached an unfathomable level that some days it becomes unbearable to even exist.” That’s a very broad statement but I wanted to keep it in mind when listening to the song. The thing that is ironic is that I’ve been reading Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker which was released in 2018 which argues that current times have been our best times compared to the global bloody history of our past.
The song starts with strummed acoustic guitar and within twenty seconds we hear a second lead guitar, bass and drums. Right off the bat I loved how lush and warm the recording felt. The production and recording quality was impressive.
Brooks sounds as good as ever vocally. His delivery is a mix of pensive, heartfelt melancholy and solace. The vocals are the focal point and I was happy that I didn’t have to struggle to figure out the lyrics. I thought the lyrics were broad, similar to the statement I read. He paints the picture that we are living in crazy and uncertain times but we are going to make it somehow. He throws in some poetic language but in general I was getting the vibe that this was a song about perseverance in tough times.
Once the second verse hits he talks about salvation. Brooks sings about being in a place where we don’t get told what to do or what to be. The theme he talks about is general and really can be applied to myriad situations. There are prominent countries which still have totalitarian regimes we are all aware of and in context the US, Canada and many other places could feel like the salvation Brooks is referring to.
The point I’m making here is that it’s relative and what Brooks does here rather brilliantly is use broad language so anyone can imprint their own story into the song. That’s ultimately one of the things that I think makes a great song or even great art. There is a reflection and a sense of understanding between the artist and the one interpreting the art that unite our similarities. Hence, a song like this, even if it’s brief, can make us feel like we are not alone.
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