It is very rare to find an album which provides both a chilling and uplifting auditory experience to its listeners. Then again, albums like Rob Bravery’s eclectic masterpiece, Esque, are not easy to come by. Comprised of eleven tracks, all of which explore a variety of musical genres, styles and tropes, the album offers a lyrical exhibition of the musical genius that is Robert Bravery.
Through collocating styles like acoustic folk with synths, marrying themes of regret with those of redemption and making unexpected musical and philosophical alignments work effectively, Bravery illustrates his unassailable talent. With a unique edge over most other artists receiving attention from the mainstream, Esque is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year; not only is it perfect for long drives and lazy Sunday mornings, it packs an oddly charming punch as well.
Having experienced childhood loneliness, homelessness and drug addiction, Bravery is no stranger to the traumatic events which many people struggle against. Without making the mistake of linking the life of an artist with their work, it could be suggested that Bravery’s own experiences resonate in the eerie, melancholic facets of his work. Many of his tracks take their listeners on journeys that move from being inescapably harrowing to assuredly redemptive, arguably reflecting the solace that can be found in creating music.
The opening track ‘Knock Out Ginger’, for example, begins morosely with eerie vocals and heavy synths in the background before progressing in to an almost enlivening chorus with a jubilant piano accompaniment, efficiently producing an idea of emotional highs and lows. It is not only the music, but also the lyrics, that have a profound effect on the song. The lyrics that really stand out are: “I don’t want to stay here for long”, which could arguably highlight the escape from reality that music provides. The ideas of escape and search for redemption resonate throughout the album, lyrically as well as musically.
‘Cleaning Up’ and ‘You Don’t Know When To Stop’ explore the theme of distrust and insecurity in relationships – a theme which Bravery approaches effectively and sensitively. In ‘Cleaning Up’, especially, a touch of 60s soul adds a reflective, but delightfully melancholic, attitude to the piece. ‘Marvel At the Man’, in which the lyrics “marvel at the man fading out” emphasises the will to live through life’s cruelties, and is also complimented with pleasant, soft beats, reminiscent of soul music from the 60s. The musical reference to this soul-embedded era does not only add a melancholic, noir touch to the album, but also provides a sense of nostalgia, creating the idea of having lost something, which is now too far away to retrieve.
Conversely, ‘Me, Myself and the Scurvy Knave’, is a consistently acoustic, melancholic piece, before being interjected towards the end with modern, heavy synth beats. Bravery does return to the encyclopedia of 20th century music in his final song, ‘Submission Statement’, however, which begins in a sombre sequence of solo drum beats, reminiscent of Bowie’s ‘Five Years’, before transforming in to a ‘60s-esque piano opening. As a final track, it works perfectly to encapsulate the mix of emotions and musical styles explored throughout the album.
Overall, the album is an outstanding success, facing, examining and, ultimately, piecing together the different styles of music that surround us in the age of modernity. Through this beautiful assortment of songs, the listener is able to explore and confront the issues and ideas that circulate in the modern mind. Through creating Esque, Bravery has been able to exhibit and share his distinctive creativity with a world of attentive listeners.