BARTEES STRANGE – ” Live Forever “

Posted: December 12, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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On his astonishing debut album “Live Forever”, Bartees Strange shapeshifts across songs with grace and charm, winning over even the most jaded listeners. In the album’s first section alone, the Washington, DC-based musician gallops through gut-wrenching indie rock on “Mustang,” floats airy rap over post-punk on “Boomer,” and waxes R&B dreams-turned-poetics on “Kelly Rowland” — the juxtaposition of which turns Live Forever into a revitalizing expanse. In many ways, it’s the sound of Bartees Strange building the world he’s always wanted without realizing it was even possible to do so, or that so many listeners want to join him there.

If the only thing you knew about Bartees Strange was that his debut EP, “Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy”, was comprised entirely of The National covers, you would probably draw some conclusions about what Strange’s music sounds like—and, given the specificity of The National’s niche, understandably so. “Come to a place where everything’s everything,” Bartees Strange sings on “Jealousy,” an apt description of a debut album that grabs from emo breakdowns, hip-hop cadences, indie-rock riffs, glitchy production and gentle minimalism. Though many of the songs are about feeling hemmed in, Live Forever is purposefully expansive, grounded in a singular vision. “These songs make sense because I’m Black and because my voice ties these songs together,” he told NPR Music. It takes conviction to gesture, as the title does, toward immortality, especially in a music industry that has never adequately valued Black musicians, that insists on categorization (“Genres keep us in our boxes,” he bemoans on “Mossblerd”), that says putting all your chips on your art is too big a risk. Luckily for us, Bartees Strange has it. 

But your assumptions would almost certainly be wrong. Sure, Strange can summon the same pulse of The National’s most kinetic anthems (see “Mustang,” which in a different era might have been a breakout hit). But his debut album, Live Forever, bristles at the idea of slavish adherence to a formula, even one as sturdy as The National’s. The D.C.-based songwriter has a broad swath of influences; Live Forever slinks through countless genres, blending energetic hip-hop, dynamic indie rock, amorphous jazz, and sinuous R&B with the confidence of an expert in each.

It’s unusual to see so many familiar elements joined in such a singular way. While Live Forever has the ambition of a newcomer, highlights like “Boomer” and the gleaming menace of “Flagey God” are the work of someone who knows exactly what he is doing.

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Bartees Strange is a producer and songwriter in Washington, D.C. His mother is an opera singer. His dad served in the military for decades. He travelled widely for his parents jobs — born in Ipswich, England 1989, his family did stints in Germany, Greenland, and a number of states across America before he hit his 12th birthday when they settled down in Mustang, Oklahoma

Bartees Strange – Live Forever Out Now

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