Album Review: Tyler Nail – Feathers
Tyler Nail is an accomplished singer songwriter with a well-rounded Americana flavor. He is sure to find a lot of fans among the readers of this site. When I initially ran across Nail’s acoustic flavorings, I found myself able to relax into the music effortlessly. His writing is comfortable and unpretentious, just like Americana ought to be.
“Valentina” is the opener. It’s a song about listlessness and finding direction. The guitars and banjos work nicely together. Nail’s vocals have just the right amount of quiver to feel real, but not so much that it feels contrived. “Valentina,” the main character of the song, “taught me how to dance.” There’s something subtly sweet about how it all blends nostalgia with classic music.
“Lipstick on My Cheek” comes right at the listener with a more aggressive style. What’s odd about it is that it’s a laid back style, more like chill rock, but also is not the charming Americana style of the opener. Rather, it’s about a broken relationship and some pretty harsh emotions. The chord changes are of a decidedly different musical tradition, feeling more jazz than country. The track is full of scandal and sultriness, “I thought I’d never leave this place, but the lipstick on my face pulled me out of the shade.” It even has a saxy-phone. You know the type.
Then “Brooklyn Moon” might be my favorite. It’s a bluesy piano tune with a whole lot of attitude. The piano style reminds me a bit of gospel style. The man’s heart is clearly broken. It’s about someone who leaves him in the morning. “Brooklyn Moon are you ashamed of me? Why do you leave in the night when I lay asleep?” It’s brimming with love and sorrow all in one beautifully bittersweet package.
“Firelight and Diamond Rings” has some great guitar and mysterious weather to usher the listener into the track. It’s an overly romantic salvo with some intricately delivered unique chords that take it far from the typical three chord love song. It’s precisely that musical experimentation that keeps me interested in this whole album by Tyler Nail. He seems to take the right kind of risks.
The next two, “Sycamore” and “Evergreen” seem to go together. Both have an acoustic basis that veers from the obvious styles presented earlier in the work. Both also seem to address a complicated relationship, although it’s not clear what it is (or if it’s the same one). That said, both of the songs have a simpler sonic structure than other tracks on the album for the purpose of (I think) calming the story in the middle of the full album.
“San Antonio” gets back to a more country vibe. It’s got a swing and a country croon. It’s much more of the pop country style than other songs on the album. It, again, shows Nail’s versatility to do a number of different styles. “San Antonio promise me you’ll leave the light on. Promise me you won’t be too far gone.” It’s some great Nashville style songwriting.
“Some Old Lesson Learned” has a similar country feel to it, including a slide guitar for effect. It is a down tempo, chill (and think about it) song. “When I leave, don’t you love me.” It’s a leavin’ song but not about permanently leaving. It’s nicely done. “When I go, don’t you hate me. I’ll come home when I can.” The last song, ironically called “Chapter 1” is a sort of pseudo pop song more like the middle of the album. It tells the story of the early stage of a relationship.
All told, Nail’s work is probably going to appeal to a lot of listeners because it’s unpretentious. It’s engaging and relaxing. The songs encourage thoughtful reflection and the occasional foot tap without stunning or startling. It’s a nice, naturally delivered album for fans of acoustic singer songwriters and Americana music.