Jordan Burchel – Vowel Sounds
Based out of the Gainesville, Florida area, Jordan Burchel’s second self-released album Vowel Sounds is an imaginative musical effort that scores far more often than it misses. The ten songs are divided evenly between uptempo to mid tempo outings alternating with slower, much more outright experimentations with melody and atmospherics. There’s a little self-indulgence on the effort and it seems to come from Burchel’s bursting desire to prove his talents to anyone listening and a burning inspiration that comes through in every track regardless of its pace. It isn’t a debilitating flaw, however. The exuberance heard in even the slowest tracks obviously, as even a cursory listen to lyrics proves, a deep seeded desire to express himself. He does so quite well on Vowel Sounds.
“Paper Face” opens things with some great guitar that remains one of the album’s distinguishing musical strengths. Burchel clearly has an ear for composing compact, yet intensely melodic guitar lines and they are recorded in such a way they grab the listener and don’t let go. The lyrics are well-worded and punchy – a lot of serious songwriters looking to make some sort of “statement” don’t instinctively understand that their lyrical content should be expressly tailored to the movement of the music. Burchel, however, does. “Dust” has a lengthy and atmospheric preamble before the song actually begins. The lead guitar has a glossy sheen thanks to the production and Burchel’s very personalized style. It also matches up well with the brisk pace and tight drumming – the ultimate effect is that the song plays out with great physical confidence and unerring instinct for song construction. “Why They Call You Blue” features a guest star with Sam Moss. This is the album’s first slow number and works in many ways, but despite his often haunting guitar work and vocals, Burchel sacrifices a fair amount of immediacy with his efforts to create atmosphere. There’s no clear line that the listener can follow. While this can sometimes work for a song, there is a risk for meandering or falling prey to a lack of focus.
The first minute plus of “Blesh” is weakened by the same overreaching, but Burchel pulls it together. The remainder of the track is one of Vowel Sound’s most dynamic and focused performances with more of his signature guitar work. “Constants” is one Vowel Sound’s best tracks and he shows off some of more of his creative songwriting ideas when, near the conclusion, Burchel introduces horns into the mix that strike up considerable sparks paired against and alongside his guitar playing. The eight minute long “Lilymoore Pts. 1 & 2” is far too long for what it does musically. It’s a relatively straight forward and layered arrangement, but remains resolutely low key during the first half and succumbs to a second half that doesn’t really resolve the first or expand on it in any meaningful, far reaching way. “Unfeeling Everything” has a nasty guitar bite quite out of character with most of the album and a groove centered approach, thanks to the percussion, that helps it stand even further out. Vowel Sounds may be a mixed bag at certain points, but there’s no doubt after hearing its numerous strong points that Burchel is an artist ascending and growing into a more complete talent with each new release.
8 out of 10 stars