Fans of breathtaking guitar picking and subtle, penetrating lyrics will adore the latest offering of Brooklyn artist Nathan Reich. Sometimes people ask me how I find amazing artists like Nathan. The truth in his case is through Crackerfarm’s videos of Nathan on YouTube. When I heard he had a full album releasing, I knew I had to hear it. Once I heard it, I knew I had to review it.
It’s difficult to categorize Reich’s brand of acoustic music. At times he’s clearly utilizing the best of what “country” music has to offer in terms of chord structures. His lyrics are also, at times, reminiscent of the classic country writers like Hank Williams. Yet, there’s a sort of iMusic sophistication about Nathan Reich. He seems to be bringing us a quirkier, more sophisticated version of the songwriter’s lament.
The soft finger picking of “Sweet Isolation” is as good a place as any to start. It’s soft and feels very comfortable, like a sweater on a cold day. Reich’s vocals feel close. Maybe “intimate” is an appropriate term for the feeling he conjures. Then, looking closer at the lyrics, you realize why. He’s lamenting. He wants reunion. He explains, “My sweet isolation is pulling me apart. I feel it most when it’s after dark. How did this happen and why I don’t know. But I think I’m done here; I want to come home.” Searching, yearning, seeking, living. This is an emotional, full, and important song.
“Interstate” is probably not the song you’d predict it to be. The key lyric to the song, “I’ve been to every state to ruminate the poison of being young. I’ve used the interstate to machinate against my growing up.” This lyric turns the song, which itself is melancholic and retrospective, into a helpful lens of understanding the process of maturity. Who, of us, has not thought similar thoughts on a long drive? In our constantly plugged-in world, sometimes driving is the clearest, longest stretch of time we have to think about our world in a deeper way. Oh, and the guitar break following the key lyric (perhaps we’d call it a “bridge”) is subtlely beautiful, in a Bert Jansch way. Perfect.
“The Dream Song” is the epitome of Nathan Reich’s music. The guitar is sometimes simple, with interspersed moments of flair. The lyrics are, again, impressive. It’s probably the darkest song on the album, focused on the end of a relationship. It’s about that moment after a fight when both people know it’s probably the end. The moon wants him to stay, but he’s wondering if he should bother staying. The song ends with the repetitive lyric, “Would you give it up?” It works.
I loved the poetry of the lyrics in “Wasp” so much that I immediately shared them with a friend via social media before my first listen was complete. The echoing effect put on Reich’s voice really made the track work. It’s just the way you’d expect to hear these lyrics. My favorite line is, “Isolated in your Eden, no one wonders why you’re bleeding.” It’s pretty dark, but seems to be itself a release of the pain of the singer songwriter. In truth, I feel honored to be privy to it, in the same way that reading Poe makes us all a little comfortably numb.
This is a remarkable album. I’ve skipped over a few tracks in this review, but they are not “skips” in truly enjoying it. This is, in fact, an album, not a series of “singles for sale.” There’s a difference, which becomes evident upon listening to Reich’s depth. More than a good guitar player or intelligent writer, Reich’s songs emit a particular beauty-by-pain that smacks of genuineness. We’ve all heard the melodramatic, but Reich’s lyrics are painfully relevant. Thank you, sincerely, Nathan for this collection not just of your music, but of your soul.