A lot of people have been hating on 2016. Sure, it brought us too many high-profile celebrity deaths than we know what to do with, but I promise it wasn’t an all-bad year. For one, it brought us not only my new favorite band but this band also released a full-length debut (and unfortunately also final) album.
I first saw the band, Blue Healer last year at SXSW. This threesome of guys (David Beck on vocals and bass, Bryan Mammel on keys, and Dees Stribling on drums) separated themselves from their former country-light group, Sons Of Fathers, and are based out of Austin, TX. When I first heard the group’s new sound, I was immediately enthralled. They turned a Simon & Garfunkel meets Mumford & Sons sound into an electro-pop, fresh new feel. Incorporating a modern synthesizer/keyboard plus youthful beats and airy, catchy vocals, I could see Blue Healer really succeeding and going places.
Unfortunately because this is the year 2016, Blue Healer band is ceasing to be and they play their final show tomorrow night on New Years Eve (what a way to go out). What they left us with though, is a self-titled album- wonder of the world. Let’s dive right in…
The album starts out with the ultra-mellow, “Only The Rain.” The tune gently rocks you to a climax that is somehow still gentle and relaxed, but very even-keeled. The song is a good introduction to Blue Healer, yet it allows for plenty of breathing room for the rest of the album to follow.
Next up is, “Luminescent Eyes.” Let me tell you what I think of when I hear this song. My fiancé and I are fans of the television show, “Grimm.” A general summary of the show is that there are certain types of people who can “animorph” into strange creatures when they feel angry or threatened. The show takes place in present-day Portland, OR. We imagine this song being used as a cute little montage during any episode where a character is roaming the streets of Portland in full-on animal mode. This song could fit right in, aiding to Portland’s quirky character.
“Empty Bottles” brings the rock aspect to Blue Healer’s description. This song reminds me of early 00’s rock-pop mixed with influences by The Black Keys. It features heavy keyboard-synth styling on top of a deeper sound. Eerily, David Beck’s otherwise light and airy vocals, actually create a mysterious sound to this song. I can’t decide if this song sounds angry or scary, but not in an aggressive way, which makes me ok with these conflicting feelings.
In a turn of events, we are greeted with, “O-Y-O” up next. We get immediately hit with a fun, poppy keyboard riff. This song might be the most slightly reminiscent of Blue Healer’s roots with their former group. You can hear it in the familiar, easy harmonies and the easy-going energy. It’s a relatively simple song structure with a catchy melody, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What stands out is the odd minor key the song flirts with. It’s like, you can have fun- but only if you watch your back.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is, “Crystal Chandeliers.” It begins with nifty “crystal” sound effects. The back-up vocals sound right from The Smiths, in a surprisingly deeper tone which speaks to me. Again, Blue Healer plays with a haunting sound that melts with a sweeter side. The mystery is captivating and creates a very synth-heavy cradle to rock you along.
“Song Of The Stranger” is an interesting tune that follows the storyline of a stranger. This is not necessarily the topic many songs, which is an unusual change of affairs. The lyrics and melody remind me of something you might hear Bob Dylan sing. This song is actually less of a narrative and more of a way to relate to life lessons. It’s a thoughtful, almost spiritual song and spirals around you at the end.
My other favorite song is, “Wonder Of The World.” This song has a bouncy, early-1960’s structure and a little kid-like feeling to it. It’s cutesy, it’s fun, and it wants to be friends with The Beach Boys because it is just as lighthearted and joyful. This is an easy-listening tune that seems like it could work in a retro way but then also plays with a 90’s, “Island in the Sun” Weezer-esque vibe. Very nice.
Coming off that high, we get, “Bad Weather,” a more serious track. Maybe it’s just me, but the first line sounds like, “I think my house is horny.” Obviously, the next line nixes that odd idea, because you soon learn this is a song about ghosts. I am a big fan of this subject and so I can’t help but really enjoy the unusual complexities of this song. The track jumps around in tempo and features what sounds like bongos. It’s appropriately scary and I love singing along to the shouted, “hey!” about 2/3 of the way in. This song features an almost “Seven Nation Army” (The White Stripes) feel of power and strength and it is most appreciated.
Following is, “30,000 Ft.” which starts out by ironically grounding you with strong guitar chords. The guitar also seems to be influenced by video game music- Super Mario’s castle levels, perhaps? The song gets lifted by some surreal synth and keyboard bits which keep you adrift amongst the floating vocals. The song leaves you right where it promises: 30,000 feet, way up high.
Another more happy-go-luck song comes next with, “Hold Me Close.” This is like the peppy, better looking sister to the album’s first track, “Only The Rain.” Again, this is an ultra-mellow tune, with sweeping landscapes of long chords and drawn-out vocals. The instrumentation wants to take you for a ride, and the vocals are just way too chill, man. This would be the ideal song to just mellow yourself away into a pool of no worries. “Hakuna Matata, y’all.”
Do you ever wish the lyrics of a song were something they weren’t, even though it really made no sense whatsoever? At one of the concerts I saw Blue Healer, multiple people I heard said they thought the lyrics in this next upbeat rock hit, “Like Diamonds” were actually, “Only if she tastes like Dominoes.” Pizza probably would taste batter than diamonds, though we may never know, unless we have any diamond-eating volunteers. Anyways, this song is a hit! Want to get pepped up? This song is for you. It’s got clapping and more shouting out, “Hey!” “Like Diamonds” wants to get you dancing right out the door. This song wants you to rock and it sure succeeds.
Coming down to the last couple tracks is, “Know Better.” Think you were all hyped up from the last track? Good job, but Blue Healer still wants you to think back and reflect. This is a sad, somber tune. If you want an album that lets you experience all of your emotions, even the ones you might not want to experience, then you’ve come to the right place. “Know Better” is a fine example of the kind of song you might want to listen to if you’re having one of those truly crummy days. “I don’t want to give up, I still got love, just maybe not for this life.” Man, what a downer line. Get ready to feel all emo on this one.
And, lastly we’ve got another acronym title, “I.Y.F.L.D.” which you soon can figure out is the song’s prerogative to get you back to the way you were feeling two tracks ago. Yes please, let’s end on a happy note. This is another song on the album to discuss ghosts, however this time it’s in a happier way (who knew?). Although, unlike, “Song Of The Stranger,” this is a narrative-focused song. This album wants to tuck us to bed with a goodnight story and sure, I’ll take it. The song illustrates an unusual fellow and interrupts each vignette to pretty much remind you to be who you are and “if you feel like dancing, go on with yourself.” Not a bad way to end an album, if you ask me.
Thanks to Blue Healer for making wonderful music. You helped make 2016 less bad.