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Bryce Vine - Carnival Music Album Reviews

The debut full-length from the “Drew Barrymore” singer isn’t designed for conscious, focused listening. This is music for poolsides and basements.
Bryce Vine describes himself as “OutKast and Blink-182 got drunk with the Gorillaz.” Perhaps a more apt comparison is KYLE taking bong hits with Dave Matthews Band, or Jason Mraz sniffing poppers with Doja Cat. At 31, Vine is at an unconventional age for frat-rap prominence. He established a fanbase nearly a decade ago, as a contestant on “The Glee Project,” a reality television show based off the Ryan Murphy high school drama. His real rise came with 2017’s “Drew Barrymore,” a swirl of neon synths that went platinum, possibly by being added to every “Chill Vibes” playlist in existence.

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Various Artists - Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’ Music Album Reviews

Completed before the death of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, this tribute to the band’s most celebrated album takes a relaxed, occasionally unconventional approach.

Tiny Changes was not meant to be a posthumous tribute album. Completed before Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison took his own life in May 2018, the compilation was intended as a celebration of the band’s 2008 album The Midnight Organ Fight, not a eulogy for its primary songwriter. As a result, the compilation (which shares its name with a tribute concert and a mental health charity; a portion of proceeds will support the latter) feels oddly low-stakes. No one among this collection of old friends and more recent fans thought they would have to honor a legacy when they recorded these covers, and the relative lack of pressure allowed for a relaxed, occasionally unconventional approach.


Covering Organ Fight, a breakup album with the sort of insight that arises only from uncomfortably intimate storytelling, would be challenging under any circumstances. Hearing these intensely personal songs sung by others was always going to be jarring; anything too similar would pale in comparison. The weakest songs on the compilation are those that do the least: Mid-2000s Sub Pop signees Oxford Collapse, who reunited for the occasion, deliver a near-exact recreation of “I Feel Better,” while the off-key vocals and piercing cymbals of Right on Dynamite’s “Fast Blood” resemble an unpolished demo rather than a fresh take. While not soulless, these versions fall short of the originals’ force.

The riskier these covers get, the better they demonstrate what made Frightened Rabbit’s music compelling. Josh Ritter’s goofy bluegrass “Old Old Fashioned” recognizes that Hutchison’s charm was just as significant as his more harrowing material. The Philistines Jr., the band of Organ Fight producer Peter Katis, clash cheap-sounding synths against heavy snares and processed acoustic guitars on “Bright Pink Bookmark,” connecting Frightened Rabbit’s roots with the polish that defined their later studio output. Meanwhile, the prolific Canadian group Wintersleep’s version of “The Twist” is quirkier and denser than the original, but holds its own with beefier drums and a plainspoken but affecting performance from frontman Paul Murphy.

Not every reinvention works; Ben Gibbard’s “Keep Yourself Warm” is too soft-spoken to carry the blunt titular line (“It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know...”), and if Gibbard eventually conjures a beauty of his own, it can’t match the catharsis of the original. Scottish rockers Biffy Clyro’s entertainingly frantic take on album opener “The Modern Leper” ultimately overflows with too many ideas to register. Julien Baker’s version of the same song works much better, her voice wringing out the desperation beneath the gallows humor and bombast. According to the band, who approved all these covers early last year, Baker’s contribution was Hutchison’s personal favorite.

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Out of everyone, Baker best captures the specific kind of deep depression that Hutchison was known for articulating. Had an album like this been recorded after his death, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to cover “Floating in the Forth,” with its eery foreshadowing lyrics and the grim new context of the closing line, “I’ll think I’ll save suicide for another year.” The Twilight Sad are virtually the only band that could, given the close friendship between Hutchison and frontman James Graham. Their claustrophobic version renders the melody nearly unrecognizable, but not the emotion; Graham repeats that last line until it starts to feel as hopeful as it once did.

The timing alone makes Tiny Changes a difficult listen, a last glimpse of when fans and musicians could celebrate Frightened Rabbit without the complication of tragedy. It’s far from a perfect set of guests or covers, but it wasn’t supposed to be. A different kind of tribute, less focused on the band’s longtime supporters, might have featured newer musicians inspired by Hutchison; it might have illustrated his band’s influence and introduced their cult following to a younger generation. But those involved in Tiny Changes had no intention of looking to the future—they were merely celebrating how far they had all come.


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