In the final track of St. Bart’s 2017 EP Flayed Man he sings, “I’m still not even halfway home.” The EP is a simple and contemplative work of folk music. The journey home, wherever that might be to St. Bart, or the listener, continues on their new "inspirational-folk" album No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends! The album is similar to its predecessor in its starkness and its melancholy. St. Bart sings (and sometimes speaks) candidly about their past and their struggles with mental illness. However, No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends! marks a step forward for St. Bart’s music and state of mind.
To start, the title (No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends!) highlights friendship as an essential theme in the album. It also creates a sense of support, and the exclamation point indicates satisfaction in that support. The album’s title is mirrored in its vocal harmonies. Many people provided backing vocals for the record, and the performances on “Saltwater” and “Love Made Me Write This For You (scars)” are particularly good, providing that supporting presence within the songs.
Much of No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends! consists only of vocals and acoustic guitar, but there are beautiful moments with a full band. The lush string arrangements on “Lydia, My Heart” and “In Your Honor” fill in the cracks between the vocals and guitar. According to St. Bart, “efforts were taken to represent the rise and fall in mood in a state of depression.” The album succeeds in doing this and reaches those high points with the use of drums. “When I Pass” is the most enlivened track on the album, as well as “In Your Honor,” and both should have high energy when played live.
The closing track, which is also the title track, is the culmination of St. Bart’s journey that began back in 2017. They finally realize that with “kindness, friends and love, we will never be alone.” All the album’s musical elements (strings, drums, backing vocals and inspirational spoken word) come together to back this moment of clarity. It is sonically powerful. The spoken word might not be to everyone’s liking, but to the right person, it could be just what they need to hear to keep going. That’s what makes this album so great - St. Bart has gone on an emotional journey to realize that friendship is integral to their own happiness, and still manages to be a friend to others.
No Man is a Failure That Has Friends! is a triumphant album that could have you crying one moment and jumping for joy the next. Please give it a listen.
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