Englishman – “Unsafe and Sound”

Hannah weighs in on Kentucky-based act Englishman’s newest release, ‘Unsafe and Sound’

Hannah Cook

out of 10

Unsafe and Sound
November 19th, 2013
Self Released

Recently I’ve been struggling — fighting even — with the small part of me that considers itself a music critic. After about six years of “music journalism” it’s finally occurred to me: “who the heck am I to say this album is bad?” It’s not even the fact that I’m not really a musician and therefor have no true authority to judge music, it’s the fact that these people, whose careers are music, are more often than not giving everything they’ve got to make this album everything it needs to be. And it’s the fact that music is so subjective it hurts.

With Englishman’s Unsafe and Sound, the “music journalist” in me wants to say so many things, use words like “front man” and “sophomore release” and “avant-garde”. It wants to say that the lead singer of Englishman, Andrew English, sounds like the all-growed-up love baby (okay, my real self wanted to say that, too) of John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats and Matt Berninger of The National, and that so many moments on the album can very easily be compared to music that already exists. (Just to be clear, this doesn’t count as actually saying it…right?)

But Unsafe and Sound doesn’t sound like a copycat at all—it doesn’t make you want to be critical. Instead, moments in their songs remind you of other bands in the same way that a stranger might remind you of an old friend. It’s exciting because it’s rare to feel resembling connections to two different people and it’s gracious because who doesn’t like being reminded of home when home is not with you.

On the contrary, though, Unsafe and Sound is lyrically full of what some may consider progressive ideas about the rapidly changing human experience.  Consumerism, materialism and overcompensation are some themes that surface above bouncy drums and fuzzy guitars in songs like “Fill a Silo” and “More Than Insects.” “Dear Life” concludes the EP with English sounding more like Darnielle than ever with his frank, every-day words, featuring the line “I look hard in the headlights, unsafe and sound in the middle, ” for which the EP is named. The song fades out with distance echoes and the album concludes mysteriously, but just like it should.

What I’m trying to say is that Unsafe and Sound, and subsequently Englishman, are thoughtful in that they’re not trying too hard and they’re most certainly not being lazy. They’ve simply attached themselves and made connections with things already in existence.

– December 30th, 2013 – Hannah Cook