"Hello, Hope, it's been a while," go the opening lines of "Dead Ends", the centerpiece of Ben Cooper's latest EP as Radical Face. Over the eight years he put into the three-part The Family Tree series -- The Roots (2011), The Branches (2013), and The Leaves (2016) -- he'd grasped onto ideas and perceptions that left him hopelessly drained, creatively and emotionally. Speaking with a professional finally enabled him to let go, something he's honored by naming his new effort Therapy.
With The Family Tree, Cooper sought to confront his difficult upbringing in Florida by forming a fictional genealogy paired with stirring folk arrangements. Intense family drama near the end of the process pushed The Leaves to take on a far more personal tone, as Cooper felt "dishonest… putting it into a separate avatar." That only made the songs increasingly more difficult to perform, however, which coupled with the artistic exhaustion of pairing music with his grand concept made him pine for palliation.
In an attempt to test himself and move on from the compositional confines of that trilogy, Cooper undertook a number of different projects. There was his Missing Film instrumental album, a score he released for filmmakers to use for free, and his Covers, Vol. 1 EP, in which he only sang songs by female artists. Adding to the challenge was his relocation to California; moving away from his studio in Florida forced him to relearn how to record in an apartment with minimal tools.
But Cooper as says, "If you wait for ideal conditions, you'll never get anything done." Singing the songs of Lana Del Rey and Cyndi Lauper reconnected him to traditional structures, while watching the Boom Boom Room performances on Twin Peaks: The Return and revisiting Talking Heads inspired him to seek richer, vaster orchestrations. His desire to leave the acoustic leanings of his past works behind and return to verse-chorus framework became the drive for the sonic shifts on Therapy.
We look for connection everywhere.
It’s why we’re on our smartphones constantly. It’s why we listen to music. It’s why we go to church. It’s why we get married. It’s why we wake up in the morning. No matter how civilized we become, there’s an innate inclination towards tribalism. That yearning won’t be pacified until it’s satiated or satisfied by the embrace of a tribe either.
Halifax-born and Vancouver-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Jon Bryant explores the conundrum of connection on his full-length debut for Nettwerk, Cult Classic.
“Over the past few years I’ve really become a skeptic. Thanks to social media, politics, religion and news media, etc.,” he explains. “Many songs on the album reflect that skepticism and emphasize the ways I’ve evolved as both a writer and person; spiritually, mentally and emotionally.”