There is a pureness that spews from the recent release What We Say We Are by Tyler Sjöström that is largely vacant in top 40 radio. It’s a shame that when you turn on terrestrial FM radio that most of the music sounds overly produced to the point where it doesn't even sound like musicians playing in room. When I listen to What We Say We Are I hear fingers touching fret boards and drums that sound like they were recorded in an actual room. It humanizes the music and ultimately connects you to it.
Sjöström is a multi instrumentalist who plays the guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano, harmonium and glockenspiel while also attending to the lead vocals. That being said he enlisted a number of musicians to contribute, which you can check out on his Bandcamp page.
Sjöström makes accessible folk music that flirts with bluegrass and americana. The songwriting is exceptional throughout and usually comes coated in a decent amount of melancholy and nostalgia. “Red River” is the single for a reason. It feels immediately familiar in some ways and lures you in with warm strings from a guitar and banjo. Drums are played with brushes but elevate the energy by a couple of degrees. The vocal melody is catchy and poppy but heartfelt. His lyrics are visually stimulating as they paint a picture of landscapes. He sings, “Your waters flow / Down the Gulf of Mexico / The Appalachian / Through the whole damn Southern nation.”
“Hammock” is another success and is some ways reminded of Cat Stevens. Perhaps it was because Sjöström delicately balances the emotions of melancholy and optimism. The song becomes more festive as it progresses and by the end feels cathartic.
“Hands & Knees” is a beautiful song that is sparse containing orchestral strings, guitar and banjo. This is arguably his best vocal performance as his voice has a lot of space amongst the instrumentation.
Sjöström has undeniable talent and What We Say We Are is a testament to that. There is no need to hesitate here so take a listen.
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