Heavily anticipated, the latest record XFOREVER from UK-based Kid Brunswick finally dropped on July 30. Currently amassing fans online in droves, but still without a Wikipedia page, Harry James is always finding new ways to turn the music industry on its head, this album proves to be no different. Bending the rules set on genre and sound, it’s no wonder fans have been eagerly awaiting the announcement — and the arrival — of this sophomore album.
Comprised of just nine songs, this is an eloquent example of the musical plasticity Kid Brunswick has shown time and time again that he’s capable of. Bending the rules and fluidly defying any one genre, James has crafted a unique, multifaceted sound that’s become quintessential of his name.
These nine songs take listeners on a ride through the artist’s battle with addiction and subsequent recovery. It’s not only a testament to James’ personal journey wrought with seemingly equal parts struggle and triumph, but is a captivating collection of heartfelt lyricism and alluring musicianship and production value that can’t be captured by any chart.
XFOREVER kicks off with “Prescription Kid” and this introduction is a perfect example of that aforementioned sound James has honed. It’s in your face, aggressive, and grungy all while remaining honest and authentic to his personal experience. Everything I’ve come to expect and love from this artist. A blatant telling of James’ time with drugs and what resulted from the use, it’s crafted in a way that’s exciting to listen to but still presents the aftermath in such a way that it echoes long after the song comes to an end. It’s brutally sincere and doesn’t shy away from any aspect of what’s alluded to which is both respectable and also an honor to get to hear.
“Bipolar Rhapsody” is a great example of the word rhapsody in a musical sense. It does a great job of ushering the listener through different phases that seem almost disjointed, but does so in such a seamless way they all come together to form one complete song and vision. Any one section could stand on it’s own, but when strung together in the artful way they have been, it creates this intricate and well thought out final execution. There’s a lot of contrast in this piece of work, and it lends itself beautifully to telling the story encapsulated in the lyrics that accompany the immersive environment you’re catapulted through while going through the entirety of the song. The back and forth, the harsh and gentle, the aggressive and then almost compassionate phrases are all necessary and beautifully blended. This album makes it impossible to pick favorites but if I had to I think production wise, this would be a top contender for me.
The third track, “Dear Anonymous” really pulls back the curtain. This lyrical letter to what I can only imagine is either a past self or the substances he chose before this was written is a fantastic exhibit of the lyrical impression these songs can have. There’s a rage behind these words, and the almost siren-sounding effects really drive home the urgency behind this track. It slows down a bit in the bridge, almost giving a reflective quality to that phrase, then kicks right back into high gear with a scream. The ebb and flow in this song is really well done, swinging back and forth seamlessly between what feels like anger, and then what feels almost like remorse. It encompasses a complex emotional range beautifully into a single track.
“4AM” perfectly blends the gentle acoustic riffs with a ragged electric guitar to form a seemingly simple yet exquisitely intricate array of sound contained in a single song. The muted vocals that start off the song give a far away feel, like you’re hearing a memory or trying to navigate through the haze left in your mind while coming down from a high. Then when the harmony overlays that in the second round you’re brought back to the present, facing what’s left right in front of you. This is one of those songs where the way sounds are manipulated are just as impactful, if not moreso, than the words being sung. Both equally important but the way this music is crafted just hits differently, in the best way.
Placed right in the middle of this collection, “When You Were Young” takes on an entirely different life when nestled amidst the other tracks on the album. Where I had once taken this song in stride, suggestive of a person’s younger years, it’s now evolved into something else entirely. I think the fact that I’d interpreted this track so differently on it’s own than I do now when it’s combined with the rest of the songs on this record really shows how dynamic and fluid music can be. It can take on different meanings to different people, and even for those same people can have different impressions when exposed to different environments. It’s a truly powerful form of expression and communication and this song is a shining example of that power.
After the weight Brunswick put on “Skin” through social media in the weeks leading up to the album release, I was honestly afraid to listen to it. Not in a “I’m scared I’m not going to like this” kind of way, I had no doubt I’d hold a special place for any track on this album. More afraid in an “I’m worried that this is going to be an invasion of privacy, ‘too much’” kind of way. And while I wasn’t really wrong in my assumption, it’s absolutely my favorite track on the record. The unplugged nature of the song lends itself to the haunting story this song tells. The barely-there percussion additions accentuate the underlying strings that swell where the guitar falls out to perfectly envelop Harry’s vocals and continues to give me chills with each subsequent listen. When the rest of the production falls away at the end of the song and you’re only left with what sounds like a sample recorded in a voice memo and a metronome, I just… Wow. It leaves me speechless but also with so much I want to say. I think it’s best if I just leave you to listen to it on your own. Maybe bring a tissue with you, I dunno.
“The Feel” picks up with that acoustic sound which makes it a perfect follow up to what just happened, but then quickly transitions into a soft pop anthem, with a hint of the grungy sound listeners have come to expect from Kid Brunswick. The guitar lick in this song is an incredible contrast to the harmonic vocals through the chorus. They sound like two things that shouldn’t go together. I think that’s one of the things I’ve come to appreciate the most from this artist is his way to artfully craft things that appear at first glance to be from opposite ends of the spectrum, but when placed next to each other in the way he’s able to, they create something remarkable and leave you wanting more.
The title track on the album listens more like an interlude than a full fledged song, but nonetheless sounds like it belongs perfectly seated between “The Feel” and the send off of the final track. The cinematic quality to this track is a striking rendition, the lofty echoing vocals sprinkled throughout measly minute and twenty one seconds are moving and ethereal, a fragile addition to the rest of the soundscape you’ve just wound through over the course of the last seven songs. It gives you a quick moment to catch your breath before being flung into the absolute masterpiece this next track presents.
Albeit a little confused when I read that the last track was literally titled “This Song Makes No Sense,” I found myself face to face with one of the most lovely pieces of music that has yet to grace my ears. The first phrase fits the title, there’s a lot going on and a lot of pieces to pick up on the way through. But when this track really opens up it’s stunning. Putting that in italics cannot encapsulate how much I mean that. This is an instance where the English language does not lend itself to fully encompassing how extraordinary I think this song is. Harmonies that build through the chorus sent me literally into another dimension when I listened to it the first time, and every time after has been no different. Reminiscent of Joji’s “Dancing in the Dark,” the vocals in this track are unforgettable, a true show of the dynamic range James possesses having gone from screams to acoustic melodies and rap to this breathtaking exhibit of the word limitless. This was a phenomenal end to what was already a fantastic menagerie of songs.
Kid Brunswick knows no musical parameters, which makes him a powerhouse. Having written songs that not only cater to being an emotional release for the artist himself, but also a testament to traversing what it means to be human and struggle with what that entails. Seamlessly drifting from one track to the next without missing a beat, or the mark, he is carving a place for himself in the scene that only he can fill. No one out here is doing things this way right now, and any attempts hereafter can only fall short. The bar is set high with XFOREVER, and I can only imagine how the next album will sound. While I can’t really explain how grateful I am for the ability to experience the amount of authenticity that’s fabricated in the midst of such incredible music and production, I hope this comes close.