Richard Buckner’s Our Blood is the sound of a man who watched his world burn and has begun to ponder the ashes around him.
Buckner’s vocals are front, center and unaffected. They feel exposed and naked. It’s a departure from the obscured or modified vocals so often heard this year and it makes his voice jump out immediately. This accentuates the subtle balance of tones — world-weary and defiant — in Buckner’s voice.
While his voice provides the story of the man, the compositions behind the vocals paint a desolate picture of his environment. Hopeful guitar and lap steel oppose smoldering electronics throughout the album. Maybe the most compelling example of this is “Thief.” Tense electronics pulse beneath Bucker’s vocals and bold guitar statements for 3 minutes before the song crackles to life and everything melds together.
The instrumental “Ponder” is the best moment of the album when listened to in context. Buckner can’t even bring himself to sing in this bleakest of moments. It completes the dark first half of Our Blood (“Traitor,” “Collusion”) and brillantly sets up the redeeming resolution (“Witness,” “Confession”).
Throughout this journey, there is a lack of traditional melodies, but it doesn’t make these songs any less catchy. Tiny pieces of songs like “Hindsight” will slowly work their way into your brain until you can connect them all together.
Our Blood should be a no-brainer for long-time listeners, but it should also win him a lot of new fans. There is no better time to start listening Buckner than right now.
Our Blood releases August 2. Richard Buckner will play the ArtsCenter on August 24 with David Kilgour. Tickets are $14 in advance.