Acclaimed singer-songwriter David Gray is back with his new album, Gold In A Brass Age. This album marks Gray’s 11th album in a career spanning 25 years. Gray comes to the stage already critically acclaimed with several Brit and Grammy nominations, 3 UK No.1 albums and the multi-platinum breakout record, White Ladder.
With these feats, it is refreshing to hear that Gray has strayed away from familiar territory to push his music mastery and surprise his fans. Gold in A Brass Ageexplores electronic sounds that are emphasised in new techniques of production. Ben De Vries, son of the Grammy Award winning producer Matrius, headed production on this record, resulting in an expansive soundscape. This explorative, electronic sound plays with the folk influence of albums’ past, as Gray uses the poetic storytelling of folk with the energetic push of electronic to get his signature vibe across.
The album is named after Raymond Carver’s short story “Blackbird Pie”, signalling Gray’s love for the natural world which juxtaposes with his hometown, London. The title track is thought-provoking and relies heavily on a swinging electronic beat. The beat is reminiscent of a cuckoo clock, which places emphasis on the temporality of the song. Gray states that: “Time ticking by is a theme that recurs throughout the record. Fragility, renewal, a changing of perspective.”
The first single, “The Sapling”, debuted in back November, focuses on moving forward, rather than fixating on “the ghosts of better days”. The opening is delicate with Gray’s affectionate voice, which is apt for an album of this nature. The kaleidoscope style music video with Gray’s silhouette over top vibrantly illustrates the theme of growing up. Personal growth is visually represented in the album artwork where a moth, with the London skyline hidden in wingspan, is tied down by chains anchored by a heart. The choice of an intricate gold design on a solid black background touches on the delicate moments in this intense album.
As intense as the album gets, the opening notes of “Mallory” set a precedent for the fragility of narrative. While the song stays somewhat stagnant, the Gray whimsically sings about being lost, even on “known roads”. Nothing screams vulnerability quite like this, as a longing for freedom from the stagnant music is made prevalent. An anxiety inducing rise of tone in the last minute points towards the thrilling yet terrifying emotional release that leaves the listener feeling fragile, yet hopeful with the steady lift of Gray’s voice.
The themes of time, growth and fragility make this album the soul-searching piece it is. As to be expected from Gray, each track is deeply layered with hidden narrative meanings and connotations that mingle in the musical compositions. A light-hearted view on a changing world, Gray urges us with “A Tight Ship” to seize the day and dance like no one is watching regardless of our temporality.