Oliver James Brooks “In A Little Long While”

Cedar Plank Records, 2023

Lo-fi alternative folk on Canadian songwriter’s fourth album.

Album cover artwork for Oliver James Brooks "In a Little Long While"This is Toronto-based Oliver James Brooks’ fourth studio album. Two years in the making, the recording was done with friends in Oliver’s living room using seventies gear for recording, mixing and mastering in order to create a warm, less polished sound, with imperfections. The album is low-fi americana with half-whispered vocals, though Brooks describes it as alternative folk where he shows his “commitment to crafting raw, organic, and real sounds that resonate with listeners”.

Brooks wrote all the tracks and also contributed vocals and guitar, where he generally picks out simple melodies on lead but also adds some jarring notes at times to give an originality and quirkiness to the sound. There is a hint of funk in the guitar on tracks such as ‘Technologically Stoned’ and ‘Carried Along’, where, in the latter, Brooks’ vocals can remind you of Lloyd Cole. Keyboards and piano, played by brother-in-law Nick Johnston, are added skillfully to enhance the tracks. The rhythm section is Annie Rowlinson on bass with producer Jack Emblem on drums.

The best track is the memorable and catchy ‘How It’s Goin’ which has a nice swing. Also good is ‘Right Place Wrong Time’– another song with a bit of a Lloyd Cole vibe and a gentle keyboard groove. Brooks switches to acoustic guitar and quiet vocals on ‘The Lonely Man’. Here, you get a sense of sadness: “I am but a lonely man/ And I am trying/ To get unlonely again/ But it’s hard when/ Lonely becomes your friend”.

In the album, there is a mixture of this sadness leavened with a determination from Brooks to live his life in the way he wants and also with hope for the future. This is seen in ‘Carried Along’ which starts with “I am doing everything I can/ To be unlike the rest” then states “There’s a fear in us/ At times, it can be too much” but ends on a positive note with “There’s hope I believe it/ Sometimes, it’s just hard to see it”. As the quotes above show, Brooks’ lyrics are not complex. This can sometimes work well to make meaning clear, but it has to be said that sometimes the simplicity can leave you scratching your head and wanting more understanding of a song. For example, you guess that ‘Technologically Stoned’ is a complaint about our use of technology, social media perhaps, but it is hard to discern more.

Brooks’ low-key music evokes some memories of Bon Iver, although it is not totally similar. If you are a fan of this genre (or perhaps of Lloyd Cole) then you may well enjoy this album.

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