From the Philadelphia area comes the great song writing talents of James Brant on his newest album Strange By Design. Fitting well within the Death Cab For Cutie, Dashboard Confessional and other like minded alternative acts, James Brant brings an honesty and ability to his song writing that many people will enjoy.
The first true track on the album is titled Knew Myself, which is a track that immediately sets the serious pace of Strange By Design. Both the piano and the methodical drum beat work together to allow James to bear his soul on this track. Stripped down and beautiful, this was the best choice to open the album with, as it makes you want to hear more of what James Brant has to offer. Ocean is a more upbeat track that doesn’t take its time like Knew Myself. Instead it brings in some faster strumming that begs you to start stomping your feet to the beat. Not a long song by any means, but short and sweet is the best way to describe Ocean.
When artists lean mostly if not solely on the acoustic guitar they run the risk of having every song start to blend into another, fortunately for James Brant this isn’t the complete case. It would have been nice to have heard a bit more diversity in the song writing by choosing a few different styles of guitars to fill out some of the tracks, but in the desire for tonal consistency, I think James Brant made his choice consciously and not out of a lack of instruments at his disposal.
Know You is easily the single-worthy song of the album. It channels the currently popular alt-rock genre in all it’s The Postal Service glory. It is a beautiful calm track with some emotional lyrics that will get to the heart of a lot of listeners. Don’t Expect is one of my personal favorite songs on the album, it picks up the pace by adding some more layers to track, and because of this the song itself stands out among the rest of the tracks found on this beautifully made album.
Although Strange By Design can suffer at times by either songs that are too brief or that never quite lift off the ground, this is a great album and one worth your time and money. If you like even one song, then you will no doubt like the rest of the album much like I did.