Nathan K has a subdued yet strangely invigorating sound. In the most insulting sense, he’s “just another singer songwriter,” but in a real sense he brings something unique to the game in his song crafting. The songs have layers beyond the stripped-down typical acoustic sound, but yet it doesn’t have the over-produced annoyance of many artists. It’s a good overall production that highlights Nathan’s vocals that express some interesting lyrics.
Instead of starting with the beginning, the third track is the title song “Dishes” that has a meandering quality about it. Nathan’s lyrics are delivered with a matter-of-fact subtlety that helps to define his unique style. He sings, “And I’ve got a sink full of dishes that are never clean, Cause I can’t seem to set aside the time. And I’ve got a long list of good friends that I never see, And I’d hate to think I know the reasons why.” It’s a soul-bearing sincerity that makes this lyric jump off the page. The delivery couched in a comfortably appropriate melody makes for a good overall song.
“Leave Them” is a clap-driven, fun song about leaving things alone both in terms of things you can’t change as well as the past. It seems rooted in an interesting existential contemplation about happiness. Maybe, he seems to assert, it’s just bet to let well enough alone. It’s a cool song sonically with thought- (and memory-) provoking lyrics. I really like the lyric, “And there are going to be times that you forget the words to all your favorite songs.” The lyric works nicely to illustrate a point of stress and confusion in life… which lyrics certainly address. But then the words are also a nice metaphorical reference to “favorite songs” in a sense that, I suppose, he’s also talking about tradition and personal values. As in… sometimes you forget what makes you, you. Nice.
“Hospital Walls” is Nathan K’s masterpiece. You see, Nathan wrote this entire album from a hospital room where he sat with his grandfather. This song is about how the walls of the hospital make him sick. The love that drips from this song is almost tangible. It’s so evident and so wonderful and vibrant and… palpable. You have to make a point to listen to this song. Then you have to share it with the people you love, or at least the ones with souls. Just when you think it’s all about this deeply personal relationship, Nathan makes it about a larger sense of the world inquiring what God might think about the corporate lives people lead. It seems like the kind of question a prolonged experience in a hospital room would invoke. It’s brilliant, really.
Nathan’s song “Criminal” is another philosophically-challenging song. It features a banjo flourish that is unique to this song on the album. His lyrics discuss inviting Satan into your life when you are lonely and doing bad things. It’s peculiar in a sense, but he uses it to address a larger message about personal legacy. In other words while he dwells on his failings and problems, he wonders how other people will remember him. A worthy thought, indeed…
Taken together this is a complicated little album that hints and a number of intriguing philosophical and intellectual questions. The overall “sound” of the album is not terribly complex but provides an interesting base to deliver the lyrics. It’s not really a “sit back and relax” album in my opinion. Rather, it’s one that requires engagement. I almost felt like I owed it to Nathan and his grandfather to engage with the songs in a meaningful way. In the end, he made it worth my while to meet them both. They are good guys.