Nick Drake
Bryter Layter


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer CONTRIBUTOR (171 Reviews)
April 10th, 2021 | 10 replies


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "I've been a long time that I've wandered through the people I have known."

Bryter Layter is often considered the black sheep of Nick Drake’s discography because of its more accessible and upbeat nature. I suppose it’s not hard to see why this is the case on a surface level; after all, we’re talking about a man whose most acclaimed piece of work is one of the most intimate and barebones folk albums you’re likely to find. But is it really so bad to hear the other side of the dynamic spectrum? Yes, Bryter Layter is a bit poppier. Yes, it’s very lavishly orchestrated and densely arranged. In fact, Nick Drake himself intended to approach the project with The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds in mind, if that’s any indication as to how we got these results. Regardless, the true core of this record remains the same: Nick Drake and his elegant guitar playing. The intro sets the tone perfectly: you’re listening to his signature acoustic folk, humble and organic, but with a thick coat of string accompaniment slathered on top. This opener is even a bit deceptive, coming off as incredibly uplifting and lacking the typical melancholy that defines Drake’s work. But fear not, as the singer-songwriter still exhibits enough of his trademark introspection and moodiness for Bryter Layter to be easily identified as another facet of his recognizable sound.

It may not be immediately evident, but one thing that sets Bryter Layter apart from Drake’s other two releases is the distinct urban flavor that defines it. There are more depictions of street and city life, and prominent touches of jazz-inflected songwriting add more color to the beautiful acoustic framework that Drake himself provides. The affair is more representative of walking down an alleyway on a chilly autumn day, especially in its ability to capture both loneliness and quiet solitude with its backing instrumentals. One can hear Drake’s intent to steer himself away from the sunny (still melancholic, of course, but sunny nonetheless) pastoral atmosphere of Five Leaves Left to experiment with some new sounds and textures. Frankly, the results are often quite stunning; the tools the singer-songwriter employs to fill in the empty spaces really lead the listener to wonder what else he could have done if he’d lived longer. From the soulful backing choir of the bluesy “Poor Boy,” to the emotionally gripping symphonic flair of “Hazey Jane I,” to the forlorn saxophone wailing of “At the Chime of a City Clock” (and “Poor Boy” for that matter), to the quaint flute soloing of “Sunday,” to the fantastic jazz-driven piano work that dominates “One of These Things First,” there’s a wide array of ways that Drake is able to flex his creative muscle. Sure, a few tunes get a bit too cheesy and dated - “Hazey Jane II,” as I mentioned, may be the prime example - and a song like “Fly” may wear its Pet Sounds influence a bit too proudly, but regardless, the highlights on Bryter Layter are some of the best highs in Drake’s tragically miniscule body of work.

I find it a tad strange that Bryter Layter doesn’t often receive the acclaim of the albums that sandwich it. Granted, it’s still very well received - all three of Nick Drake’s records have been considered at least excellent in the retrospective opinion of the public - but much of the material on the album easily measures up with the rest of his career. What’s always been fascinating to me is the fact that every one of Drake’s albums brings out a different field of his songwriting ability and emotional state. Five Leaves Left is the sound of a quiet summer in the countryside, Bryter Layter is the sound of a stroll in the city, and Pink Moon is the sound of an isolated night in the forest with one lone acoustic guitar. Whatever your mood or preference may dictate, there’s probably something that Nick Drake has written that caters or appeals to it; as for me, I believe Bryter Layter earns its spot as another gem among the three brilliant masterpieces by one of folk music’s most tragic protagonists.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 10th 2021


10694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Another one of the 2018 reviews I decided to re-post under this account. I just listened to this again last night, and it's still an absolutely beautiful record

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
April 10th 2021


2551 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Really great review. I love this record, all three of Nick Drake's albums are masterpieces, but this is the one I've been most in the mood for the past year or two

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 10th 2021


10694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks! Yeah, you really can't go wrong with any of his albums. As I said though, it makes one wonder what kind of music he'd be playing today if he was still alive... :[

BlitzPhoenix98
April 10th 2021


202 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Hey, this isn't Boris - Akuma no Uta... ;)

NorthernSkylark
April 10th 2021


11504 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

And you didn’t even mention northern sky!



I would say that out of his three albums this is the one I’ve listened to the most.

Digging: The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme

Jethro42
April 10th 2021


16626 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have to relisten to that one.

zaruyache
April 10th 2021


24273 Comments


this isn't fucing BORTIS

Tunaboy45
April 11th 2021


17635 Comments


Definitely a personal favourite

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
April 13th 2021


10694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Heh, I knew the Boris comparisons were gonna pop up ;]



@NorthernSkylark: Yeah, I'm kinda shocked I didn't mention that one in the review. I'll probably edit it in at some point

DivergentThinking
Contributing Reviewer
May 8th 2021


10694 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Album still fucking rules



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