Tag Archives: nick drake

191. Nick Drake – Bryter Later

Nick Drake - Bryter LaterAh Nick Drake, short-lived patron saint of Emo…

That we often think about Nick Drake in bleak terms is sad in itself, a reflection of his most famous and tragic work, Pink Moon. It’s sad, because there was a time where, despite his demons, he glowed with potential, and nowhere is that more true than on Bryter Later, his second album.

If his debut, Five Leaves Left, gave a sense of his dreamlike creativity, it was an introspective and thoughtful peace that contrasts interestingly with this album, an album that drips playful confidence and skill.

Bryter Later is an intriguing album that uses his iconic and hushed vocals properly, seamlessly blending them with orchestral touches. In fact, some of the album’s highlights, the Introduction and the mellow title track, are instrumental, and with Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks roped in, along with John Cale, this feels like a collaborative musical work.

It’s still Drake’s album though. On the most iconic track, “At the Chime of a City Clock”, his vocals make the album, and when he switches between emotional turbulence and subtle self-parody between “Fly” and “Poor Boy”, his soft lyrics and gentle song are spellbinding. The latter track, “Poor Boy”, seems to surge with a jazzy upbeat feel (there’s even a saxophone floating around in there somewhere, and at over 6 minutes, it’s the biggest track on the album in both a literal and metaphorical sense.

“Northern Sky” is gorgeous in its simplicity, while the instrumental closing track, “Sunday”, returns to the iconic chords that defined so much of the album. It’s less than 4 minutes long, but  feels like it drifts along for much longer (in a good way).

“Bryter Later” is different to both Drakes debut and follow-up albums. While it’s demeaning to call “Bryter Later” the cheery one, as it’s multi-layered and has its melancholy moments too. It’s probably the one that shows off what could have been though, and for that reason alone, it’s worth a listen.

150. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left

Nick Drake – Five Leaves LeftI’m sure I’m not the only one who originally came to discover Nick Drake in a desperate attempt to impress some young lady. After all, despite (because of?) his death aged just 26 from an overdose of antidepressants, he’s grown a cult following over the years, his folk charms elevated nearly into mythical status by art students and the like (and no, I didn’t get anywhere).

I mention all this because the first time I started listening to “Pink Moon” was back in the days when Floyd and Oasis were taking up most of my aural attention, and it sort of drifted past me. It’s only in more recent years when I’ve listened to it again and dabbled with this album and “Bryter Later” that the charm seems to be working.

“Five Leaves Left” is probably the most welcoming of Drake’s works. His voice is iconic but understated, weary but youthful, and he puts it to work over some gorgeous arrangements. The first two tracks, “Time has Told Me” and the epic “River Man”, make a real grab for attention, but for me the album really comes alive with Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson and Pentangle’s Danny Thompson (twins?) putting their weight behind the melodies.

As an album, after a while it melts into a cohesive whole, letting you explore eastern melodies with “Cello Song”, as well as the lovely “The Thoughts of Mary Jane” (which for some reason made me think of Belle and Sebastian). It’s a thoughtful and gentle piece that doesn’t really have the same sense of experimentation as his later stuff, but it’s the kind of album you can sit somewhere quiet with the sun breezing slowly past you, and know that everything is going to be alright.