Kyle Adem - Syracuse
Record Label: Ghost Motel Records
Release Date: May 17, 2013
Why do bad things happen to good singer/songwriters?
This not so age-old question may be worth asking...actually, a better question would be, "How are these musicians able to create some of the most beautiful songs out of tragedy?" In this lies the heart of Kyle Adem's sophomore effort, Syracuse.
It's worth noting a few things before carrying on with the review; first of all, Kyle Adem is becoming a songwriting machine of sorts. To release an album of this quality only a year after his debut armour. is nothing short of impressive, especially regarding the sonic departure that is Syracuse. That would be my second point; for the most part, Syracuse is a sonic and lyrical departure from Kyle Adem's first album. While his writing still resonates in his same beautifully unique style, this record is a descent into a choice to part with faith and an initial reaction of chemical dependency. Fans of armour. may be surprised by the amount of edge packed into in Syracuse, but in no way should that keep them from digging into its musical core.
The album kicks off immediately showcasing its difference, in the intro/title track "Syracuse". Beginning with deep and melodic synth, the song initates Adem's prevalent use of keyboards and spoken poetry that sometimes sets off or ends a song. After abruptly ending in the sound of a phone ringing and a voice answering, we are carried into the short and captivating "Nietzche is For Lovers". "Nietzche" is Syracuse at its best, showing Adem's lyrical and musical growth. The harmonies are sweet, the production much tighter than armour.'s and the questions asked on that record begin to see answers when Adem mentons at the end, whether he is supposed to "worship, or destroy myself".
"St. John" tells the tragic story of a couple visting a church overtaken by storm, which also begins to swallow their relationship as the album continues. The track begins with calm horns and ends in aggresson, doing nothing to slow the pace found in Syracuse. "I Am Alright" is an upbeat number that realistically details a longing and plan to recover from a dark season, and while this is what we've come to expect plus some, it leads into one of the only missteps Syracuse sees. The song ends with repeated harmony and what seems to be an almost-rap verse, leading into the heavily experimental and keyboard-laden "I Am Not". While the emotion found in its spoken word verse is interesting, what follows is mostly a series of jumbled, repetitive noises and unpleasant harmonies one would expect to find on a Bright Eyes record.
All is forgiven, however, upon hearing the excellent musicianship and lyricism found in "David's Song" and "After Jackson". This three-song section, sandwiching more spoken-word poetry under the name "Journal Entries" is the highest point on Syracuse, with the melody of the former sticking in your head for some time and the latter quickly becoming Adem's most successful foray into experimentation with keyboards and noise.
"Learning To Drive Again" is a simple musical therapy session, relieving pieces of failed relationship, and "Get Away" sucks us back into a combination of acoustics and electronics, its high point ending in one final journal entry that leads us into the gorgeous closing that is "The Sunset Alone". It's a combination of delicate instrumentation and introspection, which leaves on wondering when and what Kyle Adem is still capable of.
So, why do bad things happen to good musicians? If Syracuse is any indication, it's so records like ths can be written and shared with listeners who may be expeiencing the same turmoils. I was once told that the greatest songs ever written were sad songs. I have it on good authority that the follow-up to Syacuse will be more upbeat, and while his masterpiece may still be waiting to be writtin, one thing remains clear- it should only be another consistent and stunning step in the journey that is Kyle Adem's musical career.
Be sure to check out my interview with Kyle Adem about this album and where he's headed next over at my blog.