Liam Betson Returns with New LP

liamLiam Betson once played guitar in Titus Andronicus, and while you can definitely see remnants of his foray in that outfit in this tune, it’s nice to see that the sound takes on a bit of new direction.  The vocals definitely harken to the TA days, at least in the way they were recorded, but the guitar takes on a different tone entirely.  The tone takes on a nice bit of twanging dream pop, with guitars cascading all over the tune.  He’ll be releasing this new batch of songs on The Cover of the Hunter, which is being released on July 22nd.  Take a listen.

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Liam the Younger – After the Graveyard

Rating: ★★★★☆

Liam the Younger is the project of Liam Betson, a man who’s spent some time playing with his friends, Titus Andronicus.  But, that’s about all he shares, or at least his music shares, with his friends, as After the Graveyard is a stripped down affair of bedroom folk tunes.  It’s just now being released by Underwater Peoples, after being stored away for the perfect day.

One of the first things you’ll notice when listening to opener “Current Joys” is that there’s definitely a minimal recording quality with the album, but I promise that won’t detract from the listening experience–not one bit. There’s a familiarity in Betson’s voice, which reminds me of Elf Power (in vocals only), but it’s his approach, which includes the recording hiss, is reminiscent of a young Conor Oberst.  If you listen to “Ode to Then,” it’s hard not to see the similarity, as his delivery definitely has that same feeling of nonchalance.  And while indifference might not be the most charming attribute for a human, you can appreciate it in the musical sense, as the songs on After the Graveyard come across as personal introspections.

For the most part, most Liam the Younger songs on this effort don’t go too far beyond the 2 minute mark, which might do a bit of a disservice to the songs themselves.  You barely have time to soak in the special quality of each number before you’re on to the next number, but tread carefully, as there are definitely some real gems. “It Is Good” is one such track, and probably one of my favorite of this entire collection.  It begins with a softly picked jangling guitar, which then moves up a bit to more of a steady strum.  The pace carries on for the rest of the song, finally fading towards the very end.  Find this song, and no matter what, you’ll be pleased Liam sat down to pen any songs at all.

All in all, a great deal of these songs come across as brief demos, as if they’re not fleshed out quite as one would expect.  It’s always great to hear someone having fun recording tracks all on their own, but one is left to wonder what would happen with a bit more time spent with each song, narrowing down the precise elements that really stand out.  Don’t get me wrong, After the Graveyard is absolutely chock-full of such elements, so much so that it’s a bit overwhelming at times, but I’d love to see Liam the Younger go back in time and re-record all these tracks with everything he’s learned. Pretty sure he’d be indie newcomer of the year.  For now, he’ll have to settle on being a musician with loads of talent, who just needs a touch more time.

Liam the Younger – Clear Skies Over Black River

Rating: ★★★½☆

Once again, Liam Betson is the man behind the recent Liam the Younger releases.  This is his second album under the moniker, finally seeing release (on the same day as the first) after being stored away, then shared with a few friends along the way.  While his association with Titus Andronicus is probably an easy point for critics to point at, there’s definitely something else going on beneath this set of songs, all of which benefit from an expanded length, in comparison to his other release, After the Graveyard.

Anyone can pick at a guitar and crop a tune nowadays, but it takes someone special to really evoke the emotions out of a listener.  Liam the Younger accomplishes this on all his tracks, just like a few others before him.  “Leaving Black River” again recalls both the playing and singing of young Conor Oberst.  You can feel the earnestness in his singing, so much so that he occasionally hits that off note, yet not quite like Oberst’s warble–it’s a little more gentle. Also, there’s hints of a humorless Adam Green on “Country Wide,” which comes across like a haphazard ditty–that is until eventually you fall in love with the track, realizing that Liam Betson might just be the new singer for you.

Adam Green sticks out the most in comparison when you look closely at the lyrical stylings on Clear Skies Over Black River. Take “Walking,” for instance, a song that’s very casual in its composition and seems to merely be recorded thoughts, albeit from different perspectives, of every day happenings.  This is the sort of thing that made Green and his Moldy Peaches so charming, just as it does with Mr. Betson.  Stripped down to guitars, you really just get to listen to the man tell his stories, and everyone loves a nostalgic storytelling moment.

But, don’t let me drown you in comparisons, as this record is so much more than all that.  For one, listen to the whisperingly soft “Beneath the Weeping Willow Tree,” and try to not tell me that this is the sort of song you’ve always been toying with in your bedroom. Or go with Liam on “Clear Skies” as he reminisces about his good day, a la Ice Cube.  These are friends that make you feel close to the artist, allow you to get drawn into his craft; for a lot of us, that’s all we’ve been looking for our whole lives.  Each track on Clear Skies Over Black River is just that, a song you can feel yourself writing, you just didn’t happen to write it, Liam the Younger did.  It’s personal; it’s a musician stark naked with nothing but his guitar; it’s something you’ll want to come back to time and time again.  That’s what great records and songwriters do, and that’s what you have here.