I reviewed Brittany Myers’ EP, Demons, in 2013. I wrote, “I’m truly looking forward to Myers getting where she wants to be musically, and if ‘Demons’ is indicative of what the future holds, I’ll definitely be sticking around to see what comes next.” Guess what—it was indicative! Myers’ journey included a move from California to Seattle this past January. Demons was produced by Jonathan O’Brien of Music Box Studios, and before she left, Myers knew she wanted to record an EP with him again. December 2013 was spent laying four tracks with O’Brien and his band, The Hicks Canyon Band, who add a full band element to several tracks on Rather Be. The tracks worked so well that Myers made the decision to launch a KickStarter campaign to turn her EP into a full-length album. With a whirlwind of CDs, t-shirts, and sweatshirts, she ended up raising $6,500 to fund Rather Be, and she flew back in March to finish it up.
With such strong acoustic guitar and haunting vocals, it was nerve-racking at first for Brittany to incorporate a full band. But once they started, the flow was fluid and musical magic was born. The results should be pleasing to fans—Myers states, “We did a good job of balancing the band songs with songs of me playing acoustically. So for those who still want to hear the raw acoustic side of my music, half the album is still like that.” Rather Be is an entirely live recording—my personal favorite – and it leaves an unpolished dose of melodic passion that is most pleasing to the palate. Myers’ soothing vocals and the kind of lyrics that hit you right in the gut are the driving force, with mellow harmonies, guitars, and dreamy melodies backing it up. For Myers, Rather Be is both the album title and a theme throughout. She describes it as “rather be home, rather be in Washington, rather be with him, rather be alone, rather be drunk.” It’s that an element of humanity that is easy to relate to, which makes for such an emotionally gratifying listening experience.
The first track “Manchester and Sepulvida” set the tone of the album for me. It’s melancholy, it’s wistful; Myers’ vocals paired with male accompaniment really accentuate the pain of two people splitting ways. Some of the lyrics really cut deep: “You have begged me to take you higher/and I’ve only low places that I like to call my own”. The beautiful back-and-forth in this song wraps up with a sense of discontent: “This is what we knew would happen/isn’t this what we said we’d do/and if we knew just what we were getting ourselves into/why do we hurt as much as we do?”
The title track, “Rather Be”, puts us with just Myers and a guitar, and left me wishing she would come sing me lullabies to go to sleep. Her voice is reminiscent of Norah Jones, rich with blues and endlessly appealing. The closer, “Golden One”, gave me the same impression. Songs like these two are mixed in with the full band tracks like “Can’t Stand” and “Many Will Enter”, which showcase a cool pop-jazz-hybrid feel. I could go on about any of the songs on Rather Be—there are certainly no tracks to skip on this album.
My stand-out track on this album was incredibly easy for me to pick. I knew as soon as I heard it. Myers’ growth as a musician is evident through the whole thing, but “Eye for an Eye” blew me away. The sophisticated vocal decisions, the blending of Myers and the band, the achingly beautiful lyrics—“Bury my body/somewhere it won’t haunt you/just leave me dead roses/just to save the passing time/but this water won’t turn to wine/the ocean won’t divide/yet you say, ‘darling, an eye for an eye’”—I am completely sold on this song. It’s ethereal and haunting, and when it picks up toward the end, it made me think of Radiohead. For me, this song truly demonstrates Myers’ musicianship—she isn’t just a person who makes good music; she is truly a musician who understands and grows with her craft.
Rather Be is set to release on Monday, June 23. Dear fans of artfully crafted music that makes us feel blessed for our listening ears, please do yourselves a favor and pick this one up. I had a feeling when I heard Myers’ Demons EP that she’d be back and even better, and my gut was right. Demon was like a musical coming-of-age story, and Rather Be fully presents Myers as a realized musician. It is a piece of art.