Best element: An exponential increase in quality between releases.
Label: careworn records www.carewornrecords.com
Acoustic guitar players get bored easily. Electric guitar players can create a whole lifetime of material without ever seriously indulging in an acoustic- A song here, a ballad there, perhaps, but nothing too serious.
After hardly more than two albums, most acoustic guitar players switch to an electric guitar, or at least put a band behind them. Elliot Smith did it after two full-lengths and an EP, Dashboard Confessional did it after two full-lengths and two EPs, and now Bleeding Heart’s Melody is doing it after one full-length and an EP. The difference between the changes was that Smith’s was neutral (he was still brilliant), Dashboard’s was horrible, and BHM’s is excellent.
The previous album I heard from BHM was an incoherent mess of insecure vocals, meandering song structures, and passable lyrics. Tim Bouchard (otherwise known as Bleeding Heart’s Melody or BHM) has significantly refined his craft here, as the songs have genuine purpose and the vocals retain clarity throughout.
The best example of this new-found security is in the title track “Exhale Life”. The song builds from a humble beginning on an acoustic through piano-augmented verses to a chorus that ranks among the best he’s ever written. As the drums pound over a solid bass sound and an acoustic ditty, an electric guitar sings out, and Bouchard cries out emphatically “There’s no more hurting! No pain anymore!” He had me convinced.
“Shattered” is also a highlight, an emotionally stirring track that starts with a newsclip of a car wreck and proceeds to tell an unusual story. The overall effect is what scores points here, as the song conveys despair without ever being cliché. A simple little synthesizer line drives the elegant “Angel Song”- it’s simple, but it’s so beautiful.
Although there have been immense improvements, BHM is far from perfect. The lyrics are still hit and miss, as some come off whiny and contrived, especially in the musically vapid “Winter’s Breath”. “Sunset Serenade” unfortunately has the same exact vocal hook as the lead track “Exhale Life”, and “Morning Doves” features vocals that hearken too far into BHM’s past (whiny and grating on the ears).
But in the end, there are many more highlights than lowlights, which all serve to show that “Exhale Life” is a wild improvement over anything else BHM has ever done. I hope that BHM enlists a full-time band and keeps churning out music of this high a quality. It’s not often that my opinion of a band is completely changed from one release to another, but Exhale Life has drastically changed my opinion of BHM.