Entertainment Magazine

Bryan John Appleby’s Fire on the Vine [7.4]

Posted on the 10 August 2011 by Thewildhoneypie @thewildhoneypie


I grew up around guitars, so leaving the squeak of skin against strings and the back of a guitar’s neck audible in recordings immediately endears an artist to me. I feel it solidifies their authenticity as a true musician, rather than one who was birthed in a recording studio. This undeniable sound is sprinkled throughout Bryan John Appleby’s (@bryanjappleby) Fire on the Vine as well as a few lyrical gems.

Fire on the Vine opens with “Noah’s Nameless Wife”, which could lead the uninformed listener to unnecessarily categorize Appleby as another artist riding the indie folk success of bands like Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver. I certainly did. Like those bands, Appleby favors clear, sweet vocals surrounded by lush harmonies. His instrumentation on the first track is similarly folk-y: it incorporates only guitar, piano, and strings. It was the addition of horns and xylophone on the second song “The Rider. The Horse. The Land” that made me sit up a bit straighter and chide myself for being too quick to classify. As I delved deeper into Fire on the Vine, I discovered some truly brilliant moments and a few subtle heart-tugging touches that ensured the album would be getting more than its obligatory first spin.

Most modern music eschews specificity for vague, simple lyrics that can be repeated over and over again in order to reach the 3-minute mark. Appleby is in the vein of songwriters who aren’t afraid of more unambiguous concepts. In “Backseat” he sings, “You were hiding in the backseat of my Lincoln, underneath a blanket with your head against the door, and I was already halfway through Ohio, when I heard your soft voice singing to a song on the radio.”

It was “Boys” that truly won me over. Clocking in at an unthinkable 7:05, the song starts soft with arpeggiating and chime-like chords. At 2:50, the song drastically changes and moves into a more unique sound. Appleby shout-sings over a haunting call-and-response between bass drums and high-pitched, dissonant piano. Eventually, the song returns to the gentle motif from the beginning and ever so slowly descends into silence over a period of two minutes. It’s one of those brilliant moments I was talking about.

All in all, Appleby has created a solid collection of songs that display a unique take on a familiar genre. There is nothing on Fire on the Vine that will immediately inspire unwavering devotion in its listeners, but as Appleby continues to write and record, he will only get better.


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