Yesper – Senses Sensei – Esoteric, smart singer songwriter

From the moment I first found Yesper I knew he was a special talent. It’s that kind of quirky different that made everyone raise their eyebrows at Yellow Submarine after I Wanna Hold Your Hand. It’s not bad or weird different, just different different. Every song on this Yesper salvo is that kind of peculiar, engaging, funky singer songwriter music. It’s sure to find some fans around here.

What makes the sound so wonderfully captivating is the blend of acoustic and electric guitars with the lead vocal staying the same. It’s a little bit beach and a little bit Dashboard. It’s a little bit flashy and a little bit sad. Because it does all of these things so well, Yesper gives listeners a a sonic adventure as varied as the seasons of the year.

The opener “Vulgar Mouth” is intricate and exploratory. It has the sense of a journey and the percussion drives it. The second track “Northern States” feels like something from the late eighties combined with an old John Mayer bootleg. It’s electro-guitar groovy with Yesper’s vocals soothing and seeping at the same time. Dripping with rich and delicious texture, the layers of guitar sounds and subtle harmonies make for a powerful and engaging track.

Yesper’s lyrical quality is esoteric and detached. It is no more obvious than in “Honest Men.” Although it’s not evident what he’s talking about, he emphasizes sensory experiences. I tend to like the second verse, “On the western coast in a suit and coat you can count the honest men.” I think it’s about corruption and greed, but maybe I’m reading into it. In any event, the west coast swing is certainly there, giving the track a sort of timeless late 20th century style.

“Moving Parts” emphasizes vocal harmonies and a percussive beat that defies genre. A bit more experimental than anything we’d typically call “folk” around here, it’s certainly a unique sound. “Butcher’s Boy” is confronting and conflicting. There’s something that smacks you right in the face when you engage it. Although the acoustic guitar that drives it doesn’t seem jarring, the plodding rhythm and the grungy, echoing vocals feel almost primordial. It’s fascinating if unconventional.

“We don’t move we just talk to death,” the opening line of “Brightest Minds” could be the mantra of many companies and industries today. The song is about the inactivity of people who can and should make a difference in the world. It’s convicting and powerful. A bit inspirational, a bit unsettling, and plenty to think about – it’s a great song to give an introduction of Yesper’s unique songwriting, vocal, and lyrical style.

This is not the “you’re all gonna love it” album of 2015. That’s not to say that some won’t enjoy it, though. Think of Yesper as a sort of “new folk” savant. He’s trying things your ears aren’t sure they like yet, but they want to hear more. He’s advanced and special, so give his album a shot. There’s not a clear “best track” with all the happy hooks and toe taps you think you want, but take a moment to seize the ethos of the album. It’s worth it in the end.

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