Last updated on November 3, 2013
I’ve raved about Jonny Rodgers‘ ability to play wine glasses already, so I won’t focus on that in this review of his new album Everything All at Once. Suffice it to say, that’s still incredible. What’s more interesting to me is the coherency of these tunes and the world that creates.
Rodgers wrote and recorded the entire 7-song album in one month as part of a residency at Butter, a sound design and consultancy studio. You’d never be able to tell, as the songs and album are fully realized. Since he wrote all of the songs in such close proximity, there are sonic linkages between the tunes: arching, wordless vocal lines soar above “Everything is Yours” and “Nothing Short of Wonderful”; “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Small” and “Imperfect Perfect” have instrumental melodies of similar shapes. The back-to-back “Everything is New” and “I’ll Remember Everything” even share the same picking pattern on the acoustic guitar.
Instead of this being repetitious and boring, it ties the tunes together. “Don’t Be Afraid” is jaunty, “Imperfect” is sweet and romantic; both are firmly part of Rodgers’ milieu. “Everything is Yours” spins out into a sweeping, orchestral feel, while “Nothing Short of Wonderful” keeps it intimate. “I’ll Remember Everything” diverges from “Everything is New” by leaning on guitar, rattle-trap drumming, and horns to create a country/folk vibe. Rodgers’ songs all retain a sense of wonder via the glass and the overall delicacy of the arrangements; the fact that some of those sounds overlap only endears me more to the album as a picture of a specific time and place. There aren’t enough of those in the world, and Rodgers has made a good one.
Rodgers’ voice is worth noting: high and gentle, his timbre matches the tunes perfectly. It’s rare to find a voice that so thoroughly inhabits the tunes it is set on; it’s hard to imagine anyone else covering these tunes as effectively as Rodgers sings them. However, it’s a strong credit to his songwriting that the tunes are worth me pondering how to cover. I can’t write something as beautiful as “Imperfect Perfect,” but maybe I could sing it to someone.
Rodgers’ Everything All at Once is a strikingly beautiful collection of indie-pop tunes. There’s more here than can be written about; these thoughts are just to intrigue you so that you’ll go listen to it. This one’s going to grace my end-of-year list for sure.