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On paper, “Spines of the Heart” by Bryan Deister seems like a brave, bold statement with his stated influences being genre-defying acts such as Thom Yorke, Roger Waters, Kurt Cobain, Bjork, Jeff Buckley, John Cage, and Voltaire. On the actual record, however, the performance never seems to be anything beyond decent. At a whopping 22-songs and 87 minutes long, the album would in actuality have been a lot better if cut in half. Moments of brilliance do exist such as songs like opener “All That I Have”, “Have You” “Approaching”, “Into the Sky”, “Nobody Angel”, “What You Want”, “The Bread”, “Always Further”, “Nothing More”, “Vacant Eyes”, and most of the 13 ½ minute closer “Apart of Me”. However, the album is also fraught with filler tracks such as “Responding Well”, “In Her Eyes”, “Silent Screams”, “Brighter Dawn”, “Gone”, “Come”, “Wait”, “Emily”, the ELP sounding “Seven Eight”, and “Sure”. I cannot fault Bryan for the compositions he has created because the music is masterfully executed even though it might not always sound particularly interesting or catch your ear in the right way (especially for those unfortunate souls raised on Top 40 rubbish), I understand music theory enough to know what he’s doing is impressive and deserves recognition. What I can propose, though, is this constructive criticism that he take some vocal lessons before recording vocals for his next album. I do think his vocals could suffice wonderfully for his music if they have the proper training and guidance to allow them to appropriately shine, so I’d hope he puts as much effort into honing his composition and instrument skills as he does his voice from now on. His voice isn’t particularly bad, and there are some instances for certain when the out-of-tune cracks and cries do the artist’s songs justice, but he’s not one of those artists yet. “Always Further” should have been an incredibly enjoyable experience for me, the music is beyond brilliant, but some of his vocal delivery makes what should be a stellar song almost painful to listen to at times.

“Spines of the Heart” seems to suffer from trying to do way too much and only accomplishing a small portion of what it actually attempts. I applaud the effort and understand the compulsion to try to integrate a lot of different genres and styles into one release, but I also understand the tendency for that to hurt an album in many ways because you never establish a base level of comfort for the listener to grasp onto to get them through the album. It has to be carefully done, obviously, and is best for a second album rather than a debut album but no risk, no reward so I do appreciate the risk he took with this although it didn’t always work to the album’s benefit. I do think this album is worth perusing, mostly for the amazing composition and production, but expect to be compelled to skip over the copious amounts of filler on it.

I don’t think this album has a physical release yet so I’d urge Bryan to consider a single CD release with this track-listing (give or take a few) if he wants people to get the most out of the experience his album is trying to create:

 

  1. All That I Have
  2. Have You
  3. Approaching
  4. Into the Sky
  5. Nobody Angel
  6. What You Want
  7. The Bread
  8. Always Further
  9. Nothing More
  10. Vacant Eyes
  11. Apart of Me

 

You can find this album on http://www.bryandeister.com where you can purchase a digital download of the 22-track album.

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