Friday, 17 June 2016

Album Review: The Clearing by Nigel Barnes

Nigel Barnes is the drummer of Bolton based pop punk band Don Blake. Recently he released a brand new solo album via his Bandcamp page named The Clearing which he wrote (aside from a cover), performed, recorded and mix by himself.

The Clearing begins with a song named My Future Self. My Future Self is a summery piece of pop punk music about looking at the direction your life is heading and not worrying about how things turn out, because they normally end up turning out better than you might expect. I like how the beginning of the track starts out acoustically before the electric guitars and drums come in to really lift the mood of the song. Title track The Clearing immediately has a pop punk feel to it. The melody of the vocals is superb and is what really pulled me into the song. The song is about how the adventures, good times and bad help to shape the person you become as you get older. I think most people can look back at certain moments in their lives and realise they shaped a particular aspect of their personality. A great subject for a song. On Don Blake's last album Pocket Universe there were a good number of songs about mental health. This theme is continued on the song Sun, Come Back. It is a very personal song about coping with anxiety and depression and reminding yourself not to feel bad about feeling bad. On this track Nigel reverts back to his acoustic guitar and is accompanied by some light drumming. Only three tracks into the album and I'm really enjoying the different variety of styles.

The fourth song on The Clearing is named No Stars. This is another personal song as Nigel looks at a different element of his personality. This time it is his addictive personality and some over-indulgence not being worth it in the end. It feels as if there is a lot of personal growth in the song as Nigel realises what he's doing isn't good but is too stubborn to change. Musically it's another stripped back acoustic track where the vocals carry a lot of emotion. Don't Say it returns to the pop punk sound that Nigel does so well. The tempo of the track really gives the album a shot in the arm and after a couple of slower tracks adds some great momentum. Don't Say It is a song about people struggling to show how much they care about someone. The opening verse sums up the whole track perfectly. "You Seem To Make A Joke Out Of Every Situation, We Await Your Thoughts With Intense Anticipation, But We Know, You Don't Communicate Like Us" is a really relatable verse. I definitely have been the person to make a joke out of all situations in the past, I guess many of you have done so at some point as well. Papercuts starts with some fiddly guitar playing and for the first time of The Clearing - some strings. It's a song about realising that you're stuck in a rut and finding something in yourself that will help you make a change to your life. The harmonies at the end of the track are fantastic though this isn't too much of a surprise given that Nigel is part of such a good pop punk act.

Confessions Of A Scalliwag sees Nigel go down a reggae/ska punk route. I can really imagine this with a full band and it being a big hit. (For a ska band anyway). Scalliwag is another song about personal growth. This time about realising that you were a bit of a terror when you were younger but learning from your mistakes and becoming a better person because of it. The chorus on the track is huge. It goes "I Look Back At That Time, And I'm Always Horrified, Can't Stop From Feeling Guilty, Cos I Was Out Of Line, But If It Was Up To Me, Well I Wouldn't Take It Back, And I Can't Take It Back, Even If I Wanted To." I imagine that this chorus especially would get a big reaction at a gig. Dugouts is yet another hugely relatable song. It's a short track about drifting apart from your best friend. Despite the melancholy nature of the song there is also an element of looking back with fondness at the great memories you made together. The penultimate track on The Clearing is a cover of Regina Spektor's All The Rowboats. In all honesty I had to get on the Spotify to listen to the original as I've never heard of the song before. For those as ignorant as me it's a piano and drum led pop song and actually fairly enjoyable. Nigel does a good job making the song sound like his own with this cover. The final track is the song Tiredness Can Kill. It's another personal and incredibly tragic song based on a moment in Nigel's life. It talks about the sad death of his grandfather due to a car accident when Nigel was three and the feeling he gets when trying to remember him despite not having any real memories of him. The introduction of the song really made me think that the song was going to be a big pop punk assault but instead we are treated to a really emotional pop rock track. The story of the song is quite sad but Nigel manages to turn the story into a quite beautiful song.

This is a quite incredible album by Nigel Barnes. He is so unbelievably talented as a songwriter and musician and it really shows on The Clearing. Lyrically the album is just superb. It's smart, relatable, heartwarming and heartbreaking. It really makes me sad that more people aren't aware of someone with the massive talent of Nigel Barnes. Check this guy out!

Stream and download the album here:

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