Futureman Records (2014)
If Pictures Of found Andy Klingensmith in fine, mid-period Simon and Garfunkel mettle, then the new EP Bright Again finds the young singer-songwriter wiping his sonic canvas clean and adding a few, new, sparkling layers on top of his folk-pop leanings.
Klingensmith’s overall approach, in fact, is decidedly different and fresh this time around, only five months after the release of his freshman offering. Whereas Pictures Of, as accomplished a work of musical art as was released last year, featured only bright and vibrant acoustic guitars underpinning the gorgeous vocal stacks of three-dimensional harmonies and astute, majestic lyrics, Bright Again adds bass, keyboards, drums (deftly performed by Riley Smith), percussion and woodwinds (played sensitively by Jay Gummert) to the mix, and paints a decidedly pop picture while still retaining the already-established folk-pop foundation.
Recording at home again, Klingensmith, whether on purpose or not, channels Curt Boettcher, the vocal sound of the Roches, and the Free Design and sets out to twist and turn preconceived notions about his approach, even as he posits that his basic notions haven’t really changed. The title song, for example, rolls along on the wings of gorgeous harmonies and a lovely woodwind melody line delivered pleasingly over an acoustic guitar strum. The artist begins singing about a communicative bond with a partner. Cheery chords, drums and percussion propel the upbeat tune along as the words paint a yin-yang picture that suggests all might not be well now but may be in the future. “Stop me if you have heard this one before,” the narrator suggests. “Man walks into the world, stays a while/What’s the use of a mind? What’s it good for?/When everything is erased with her smile.”
Lofty questions such as these kick off this sophomore release. The questions do not stop after “Bright Again” plays out. In the breezy, second song, “No Control,” Klingensmith plays with varied rhythm structures as he spins a tale that touches on duality (“Something in the words we choose makes the things we say come in twos/Which do you wish that I prefer?”) and one’s path in life (“There’s fate but that’s just a wait/A key with no gate/A line much too straight/And though the things that we know are not fading slow/There’s one place to go.” Once again, lovely, inventive harmony stacks both surprise and delight.
Feelings that manifest as delicate notions are at the heart of “Oh Miss No Name.” Suggesting that such realizations may be fleeting, Klingensmith sings “I’ll write a few words with water from the fountain/But, soon as it’s done, it dries.” Crestfallen or not, he addresses his thoughts in the final verse: “Oh miss no name, perpetual love/Feels just like we are hand in glove/I’m just musing, remove the “m”/Now just using my mind ’til then.”
And so it goes with lyrics that are wise and ring true for all manner of listener, whether Klingensmith is writing about the open air in “The Parade” (“And I would ask the sky to take a seat if it wasn’t still under my feet”), ruminating on the mysteries of life in “The Penultimate Color” (“And so how long will nature still pen its overture/Where will the notes fall in the dark without us knowing?”), or musing about anticipation in “Peels and Feels” (“I forget just what I was, waiting for/A thousand days, out the door”). And so it goes, as well, with every note rightly expended within the confines of these richly wrought songs, cleverly realized creations that stand with the best of them.
Released on January 14, 2014, Bright Again would signal the arrival of a major artist had the full-length Pictures Of not already done that in 2013. Another full album, recorded out of the safety of home, is next on Klingensmith’s plate. It cannot help but reveal additional, emotional layers befitting a musician whose vision sees more detail with each new composition, whose every new step takes him into the great unknown with an eye toward completing his next musical chapter. For the sky is the limit, and the limit is endless and just around the corner. Andy Klingensmith, once again and forevermore, has arrived.
– Alan Haber