Ever since we first heard it in the harmonies on those pained and powerful Water Liars records, Andrew Bryant’s voice has been full of a deep longing. Not just his tone, but his words. Bryant has a gift for writing songs about the everyday experience of being human, and all the flaws, hardships, failures, and heartache that come with it. Across his last two records, 2015’s This is the Life and 2017’s Ain’t It Like the Cosmos, we have heard him grapple with what it means to be a man, a father, a partner, and an artist. His latest, Sentimental Noises, finds him continuing that exploration, but as a changed man.
Since beginning to create it four years ago (and longer in the case of some songs that date back to the early aughts), Bryant has experienced a shift. He went through a divorce and found love again, and in between, was forced to sit with himself and approach his art as a different version of himself. And while we still hear him mining the darkness with his low, smoky tone, there’s a lightness in his step on Sentimental Noises. It’s in the driving drum beat and a guitar riff that pulses with sweet anticipation on opening track “I Wasn’t Ready.” Ironically, Bryant wrote this tune nearly two decades ago, but literally wasn’t ready for it till now. “I wasn’t ready for you,” he sings, perhaps to a lover or maybe even to himself. His guitar builds to pure euphoria on “Sentimental” and then drawls on “Something Else,” both standout songs about encounters — with strangers, with our demons, with nature — that force a reckoning on us.
Bryant confronts loneliness all over Sentimental Noises, but not without a sense of hope. Even on a dark tune like “Lucky Cigarette,” or the slow climb of “Big Hawk,” Bryant finds beauty in moments of solitude and uncertainty. This is especially true on stunners “This is Love,” “Slow and Hard,” and “The Blue in My Baby’s Eyes,” which give us the album’s airiest, loveliest vocals and arrangements. The faded haze of harmonica and delicate guitar picking of the latter will make you return to it again and again. The way Bryant is able to plow through the disappointment and sadness inherent in all of us and come out the other side knowing there’s something better waiting is what makes Sentimental Noises a true light at the end of a tunnel.