Review Summary: Subtle and effective, Peter Broderick's Home is the album that everyone missed.
For the first time in four months, I am home. How I longed for my own bed, my own privacy, and home-cooked food. Ah, yes, the wants of a student. I am finally home, but something feels strange. Home has become vacation. School has become home. Where do I belong? Someone who might understand this dilemma more than others is Peter Broderick. After growing up in Portland, Oregon, the city of musical stars like Elliott Smith and M. Ward, he left everything behind and moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, to play in Efterklang's live show as a violinist. While touring with the band, he also opened all of their shows as a solo act. Before Home
, his previous works were largely orchestral, centered around his piano work and flourished with strings and vocals. His live solo act deviated much from these albums. Instead, he returned to the style of the aforementioned Elliott Smith and M. Ward, a sort of tribute to his home. With simply guitar and vocals, Broderick shocked all of his fans with his ability to play violin with Efterklang, record gorgeous piano and string compositions, and play great, simple folk music live.
After finishing his tour with Efterklang, Broderick went into the studio to record Home
. He recorded in Copenhagen, but the album fits perfectly into the Portland music scene: a little Smith, a little Ward, and a little Decemberists. While clearly derived from his live performances, Home
could only happen in a studio, as Broderick layers drums, bells, guitars, and voices to the point where he becomes the definition of a one-man-band. At times, it seems like he just took his piano and strings compositions and moved them to guitar and voice. In fact, said Broderick of the album, “There were so many times when I thought, 'Oh, this song would sound so great with a nice little string section here,' but instead I forced myself to fill that space with something else, often times layered vocals, and/or guitars and percussion.”
The results may sound repetitive from that description, as the recording of Home
was much more of an experiment for Broderick than anything. He deliberately avoided all piano and strings simply to prove to himself that he could write a full album without any of it. What resulted, however, was his most engaging and enjoyable album to date. Most songs begin with acoustic guitar patterns, growing organically with more and more layers adding in until it reaches a climax, often highlighting either polyphonic interplay (“And It's Alright”) or beautiful homophonic harmonies (“Below It”). This style defines the longer songs on the album, but shorter vignettes offer the variety the album needs to stay alive. Opening song “Games” focuses much more on vocal harmony, with the acoustic guitar only adding in later to assist with the chordal structure. “Games Again” uses reverberated electric guitar and ambient tones to recall the melodies established in the opener, introducing new colors even at the end of the album. “There and Here” sounds as if a transcription from piano and strings to guitar and vocal ensemble - a sparse, wordless piece bridging the gap between two of the longer songs. Despite being shorter pieces, all of these vignettes stand out among the more standard songs on the album.
Given this is primarily a folk album, Broderick's lyrics are more in the open than ever before. Here, his biggest faults come to light. The phrasing of his lyrics in “Below It” until the climax of “And with his fingers he will push...” sound awkward and forced, as if he took pre-written poetry and forced it into the song. Still, the beauty of the musical composition of the song overshadows the awkward lyrics. Often times, his lyrics feel arbitrary because of how well the composition overplays the lyricism. Hidden in one of the more forgettable musical songs, “Not at Home”, Broderick pens the lyrical center of the album. Here, he conjures the conflict inside of him between his home in Copenhagen and his home in Portland with the simple chorus “And when I'm home, I'm not at home.” Never are his lyrics complex, and for this reason, sometimes he pens the simplest, most meaningful lines that could pass over a listener without thorough analysis.
His third album in two years (on top of releasing two 7”s), Broderick shows his ability to compose well and often. As he grows as a person and experiences new things, he learns new colors to compose with and new experiences to write about. By the way, he's only 21.