That much has stayed true even as The City Lives stalled out in 2010 and Defining Times’ pace has been slowed down as of late.
Kerby is a powerful songsmith, a deep thinker and nimble lyricist who is intimately aware of his own emotions and is naturally gifted at translating those into cathartic songs that are as universally impactful as they are melodically infectious and tightly composed.
Of course, Kerby always has potently capable bands helping bring those compositions to life, and the same sensitivity that makes him such a magnetic songwriter makes him a wonderful bandmate eager to give credit to the players. He stands on level ground with them.
Thus, Kerby’s choice to step out as a solo artist with his four-song EP Tidal Friction is an important distinction.
This isn’t a new look. The songs are torn from the same pages that made up Defining Times’ Separate Tongues: sweeping, contemplative and tenderhearted.
He has talked about going solo before, so this isn’t unexpected, but its timing speaks to Kerby’s obsession to work and mold this style of music when, where and how he chooses. There’s a self-contained feel to the scope of Tidal Friction, a full, lived-in soundscape that bubbles effortlessly outward instead of pounded out on a conveyor belt.
There’s one stamp of approval, not four or five. And because of that, the EP is a condensed, concentrated taste of everything that makes Kerby the artist he — and he alone — is.
Stewed in tattered romances, haunted opener “White Skies” is a pure example: The flush piano notes ring out from a chilly, somber loop like the howls of a hopeless romantic clearing a path to reconciliation. Those sounds marry well with a stirring swatch of guitar distortion that seeps in midway through. This is vintage Kerby, handy at developing mood with more than just words.
Unassuming, acoustic-driven “Before the Fourth” follows in a pretty but fleeting moment, a fling between two more serious loves. The hazy “Dawning” drifts in neatly afterward, a watercolor blur of fragile but present keys, sparse percussion and whirling, textural samples. This is a look at the OKC native’s future, his voice still present and now pulled into a great new terrain that’s well-suited for it.
“Who Is It I’m Lying To” is the nightcap, starting as a soft and unsuspecting confessional that grows more and more animated the deeper it reaches into itself. It erupts into Tidal Friction‘s most in-your-face, empathic moments. The smell of Holocene is on its breath, the muted “oh’s” ushering out each chorus becoming a literal and figurative echo, but the flame it brings to the wintery effort is a welcome flicker of heat.
Tidal Friction is brief, but in music, life and romance, it’s more about how you use your time than how much you get, and Kerby says a lot about who he is and who he will be moving forward from here all the same.
EP: Tidal Friction’
Hear it: chasekerby.bandcamp.com
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