Three releases just about make Burlington, Ontario’s Eric Brandon a seasoned veteran, but there’s no showboating of the fact on his latest, Old Love, even if the title makes the 23-year old sound awfully world-weary. And reading the liner notes off Brandon’s Bandcamp page, it’s hard not to feed that sense as he thanks friends and family with complete vulnerability.
But as he writes, the album is ultimately about “the idea that there is a deep desire in us all to seek true, unwavering love,” even if part of that means embracing the risks—and hopefully rewards—that come with being that raw and open with the people closest to us. That ethos fills the air echoing around Brandon as he sings, evoking both lonely rooms and intimate venues filled with friends.
As he shifts between genres—the album is described as a blend of folk, country and blues—he moves from an aching twang to a Mumford and Sons-esque cry, always carrying that gut-wrenching dream fuelled by an impossible loneliness. And as the song titles scroll past, the journey Brandon’s taking himself on—metaphorically, and possibly physically—plays as he leaves “Roots,” heads to “U.S.A” and “Paris,” and channels his inner Joey Tribbiani for “How You Doin” before finally reaching that “Old Love” he’s been chasing.
Soft and hoarse, Brandon’s voice is all modern folk with the faintest wisps of Dan Mangan, but instrumentally there’s an older history waltzing its way across the scale, rocking songs like “U.S.A.” back and forth in an intimate, forlorn two-step. But when his voice bursts out on “Bad Dream,” offset by the subtle morning chimes of springing strings, it feels as though Brandon could bring a full room to silence—compelling them to listen in to the story he’s telling, and give in to the plaintive requests of his chorus.
It marks a turn for the album as the songs and song titles soar with a renewed optimism, filling “Calling” with a far more confident romanticism despite lyrics suggesting a much different end. “Paris” even goes so far as to rustle up a sing-along as Brandon’s newfound audience encouragingly claps as he sings “I got enough love in my own heart/ to give us both a new start.”
It’s a line that could have more than one meaning, especially when paired with the conflicted homecoming of “How You Doin.” But whichever way the road is taking Brandon next, the remaining songs are all the richer for that pain. The album art for Old Love is itself an example of the title, and by the end the smile of that couple feels perfectly in sync with the feeling Brandon’s songs have been searching for, even if he hasn’t quite found it yet.
Top Tracks: “Roots”; “Bad Dream”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)