Brooker Buckingham – So Real/Surreal
Toronto’s own Brooker Buckingham debuts with his first full-length solo effort So Real/Surreal. My first impression of his sound is one kindred to Iron and Wine—maybe a little less polished, but all the basic elements are there. The album starts off with a nice energetic intro on “Signs Won’t Stop Me”, which provides a style-sample for the rest that follows.
There are a couple of songs worth singling out, but “Busted Star” is probably my favorite on here. Mainly because of its massive electric guitar solo that just goes on and on. It reminds me of those long Classic Rock records—whether it was Cream, Hendrix, or Floyd—where “radio-friendly” and “format” had very little place in the music. Refreshing, by today’s standards.
Another track I thoroughly enjoyed is “It Would Be A Lot Cooler If You Did”. It’s catchy, and adds just a touch of blues during the main guitar riff. Speaking of different influences, Brooker’s seems to be far and wide, even experimenting with Bossa Nova on “Curtain Call”.
The overall style, though, is folksy singer-songwriter with a nice balanced lo-fi vibe to it. Brooker uses lo-fi the way it should be used: as an aesthetic effect. The end result is a sound that has an “old rock” quality to it. I say this because lo-fi and the applying of distortion to both guitar and voice is very “in” at the moment. But many indie artists think it’s charming enough to just put out crappy recordings and call it lo-fi. There’s an art to it. Brooker has captured it.
So real/Surreal is mellow pretty much the whole way through. But the electric guitars give it just the right amount of edge. And though no song came out and really surprised me, I was impressed with Brooker’s experimentation in both sound and style. He takes well thought-out risks that—in my book—pay off. Add that to the good musicianship, good writing, artful lo-fi mixing, and his soft folksy vocals, and you have an artist worth checking out, and an album worth listening to.