Zach Bryan
Quiet, Heavy Dreams


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
November 29th, 2020 | 26 replies


Release Date: 11/27/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The Elliott Smith of country music delivers another worthy gem.

Zach Bryan has been making waves lately. His 2019 debut LP DeAnn was a touching and all-acoustic ode to his deceased mother. Elisabeth saw him expound upon that success in 2020 with an eighteen-track record of profound depth and romance. He’s earned a dedicated cult-following despite reportedly turning down multiple offers from labels while also serving in the active duty Navy. His albums run together and tell a distinct story of how he lost his mother to alcoholism, struggles with addiction himself, and worries about inflicting that same pain on those he loves. He’s the type of artist and person who’s all too easy to rally around, and now he has bestowed yet another gem worthy of our attention: the Quiet, Heavy Dreams EP.

Quiet, Heavy Dreams clocks in at twenty-one minutes spanning six songs, but it’s more consequential than its transient length suggests. It embodies Zach Bryan from every possible angle: he tears himself apart (“I will leave you broken and in ruins / Call you when the work’s through just to find out what you're doin' / So I can let you down for the hundredth last time”) and sings directly to his mother DeAnn (“Dear Mama, if I could hold you I'd grab you by the arms / Tell you what it means / You could take a worthless poor boy from the flats and make him mean something”). The songs are still largely acoustic – with the title track and ‘November Rain’ serving as two of his most emotional ballads to date – but he also continues the very gradual trend that Elisabeth started of introducing richer accents. ‘Traveling Man’ features extensive harmonica, for example, while both that and ‘Crooked Teeth’ employ layered group harmonies. The production here also shows steady improvement over Bryan’s two full-lengths, despite his continued avoidance of labels. Rather than asserting itself as a totally unique venture compared to DeAnn and Elisabeth, Quiet, Heavy Dreams primarily shores them up and serves as affirmation that neither release was a flash in the pan.

As Zach Bryan continues his highly successful underground career, he unwittingly positions himself to become the modern day country/Americana incarnation of Elliott Smith. His savant-like songwriting capabilities, acoustic foundation, iconic voice, and lyrical depictions of substance abuse and death draw the parallels themselves. This EP seems to punctuate the initial chapter of his career, cementing his approach while enriching its sonic qualities. A man of Bryan’s natural talent knows few bounds, but expecting him to transform who he is for the sake of expanding his audience simply isn’t in his DNA. Zach loves identifying as a simple man with plain aspirations, hailing from rural hills in the middle of nowhere and making no bones about it. While a sonic evolution doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the horizon, it’s safe to bet that Bryan will find a thousand different ways to break our hearts and put them together again with nothing more than his words and guitar. It’s as he sings on ‘Quiet, Heavy Dreams’: “I’ll just saw away and let the maul fall to the ground.”



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user ratings (12)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
November 29th 2020


36499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Quick write up for a great EP from an artist you ought to be listening to.

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Colton
November 29th 2020


7044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I hope I'm not partially responsible for you doubling down on this Elliott Smith take cause I don't know if I could bear that burden

Digging: Cocteau Twins - Love's Easy Tears

SowingSeason
Moderator
November 29th 2020


36499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I would have doubled down on it regardless but it inspired me to make it the summary ;-)

Colton
November 29th 2020


7044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I’m sorry Sputnik. I can respect it though

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2020


3571 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm not getting much out of this, but from your review it sounds like his appeal is largely a personality thing, so I'll be sure to check his other stuff and come back.

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Slex
November 29th 2020


10923 Comments


I bet this is awesome

Digging: Seiko Oomori - Kintsugi

JustJoe.
November 29th 2020


10209 Comments


colton what have you started

Pheromone
November 29th 2020


10601 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

zach bryan's girlfriend killed him n no one can convince me otherwise

Digging: Fushitsusha - Live I

SowingSeason
Moderator
November 29th 2020


36499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Blush: Consider checking DeAnn. That's most people's favorite (although I personally say Elisabeth is better).

Colton
November 29th 2020


7044 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The fuller arrangements go a long way here, the songs have a bit more of a sense of urgency, and his guitar playing is a bit cleaner and more interesting. I don’t like the first track but otherwise this is good.



I know you’re firmly planted on this hill but imo a more fitting comparison would be the Frank Turner of country. They both have that “troubled but fun, honest dude who’s not especially innovative but nonetheless charming” thing going on

Pheromone
November 29th 2020


10601 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

frank turner of country would've made me so much less likely to check this aha



but,,,, I actually do quite like this

SowingSeason
Moderator
November 29th 2020


36499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Frank Turner could be accurate as well, but I think the raw and stripped down approach still applies better to Smith. Regardless, he's in good company and you should all listen to him.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
November 30th 2020


20675 Comments


i dont even remember listening to his first

Pheromone
November 30th 2020


10601 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

hard 3

Feather
November 30th 2020


6408 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

frank turner of country would've made me so much less likely to check this aha [2]



Checking this out later based on the Elliott Smith reference alone, you guys better not be letting me down.

Pheromone
November 30th 2020


10601 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

it really isn't similar to elliott haha - maybe lyrically, but even then it's kinda more on the frightened rabbit boat than elliott



still, it's decent - dont know if id ever listen to a full lp of his

SowingSeason
Moderator
November 30th 2020


36499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is probably the worst thing he's done and it's still amazing



Check Elisabeth

Feather
November 30th 2020


6408 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really like this, listening to Elisabeth now

SowingSeason
Moderator
November 30th 2020


36499 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet. Lmk what you think of it! It's one of my favorite country albums of all time.

NorthernSkylark
December 1st 2020


10614 Comments


Been trying to get into zach, but im just not a huge fan of his voice

Digging: Pere Ubu - Dub Housing



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