• Sam Fleming


Texture defines the new Bartees Strange album titled Live Forever. Bartees Cox Jr’s vocals often switch from silky smooth crooning to soulful belting in a matter of seconds. It's truly a rocking album, the type of project that forces you to forget your problems and throw your arms up to the sky and dance. The entire album shimmers with joy and freedom. It captures the feeling of speeding down the highway pushing well past the speed limit, feeling peaceful and chaotic at the same time.

The project fits loosely in the indie rock bucket. It borrows significantly from hip-hop and soul, and that blend of genres is part of what makes the songwriting so unique. Songs like “Boomer” have a classic, indie rock shine, while “Fallen for You” ditches the guitars for a somber melodic feeling. Other tracks like “Jealousy” feel incredibly different, utilizing Bartee's angelic, gospel-like upper-vocal register. Bartees navigates these genre shifts with ease, keeping the album from ever feeling poorly paced or lurching.

Live Forever is intensely fun. The three-song run from “Mustang” to “Boomer” to “Kelly Rowland” is the most cathartic run of songs I have heard all year. Most songs on the project come roaring to life, overpowering the listener completely. On "Kelly Rowland” you’re almost expecting some “yuh” adlibs to come in at any second, as the bass and hi-hats rattle to carry the track. The lyrics also echo the same free, joyful feeling. Hearing the lyrics “I’m the hardest nigga out” on an indie album put a huge smile on my face. The entire project oozes the emotions of braggadocio and reflection.

Live Forever doesn’t give the listener any breaks. The album is a non-stop onslaught of sound, sometimes so overwhelming that the lyrics are drowned in the guitars. A great example of this is the song “Mustang,” which packs a powerful punch right out of the gate. The entire song feels like a build-up of anxiety as guitars and synths build to create controlled chaos. It's an absolute slapper and a definite highlight on the album.

However, the song “Ghostly” stands out to me as a real turning point in the project. The song borrows heavily from ambient music, and there is very little rhythm present. Instead, the song is carried by alternating synths and choir vocals. On top of this instrumental landscape, Bartees Cox Jr laments over a lost love. Then, the modulated autotune comes in and the song reaches up towards the heavens; the bass finally comes in and the song comes to a beautiful resolution. The control that Bartees demonstrates over the band is impeccable.

The creative range this album demonstrates is a powerful foreshadowing of what Bartees can bring in the future as this album feels like a simple sampler of the band. The variety of textures keeps you constantly on your toes, always reaching out for whatever is coming next.

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