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Release Date: February 23, 2016
If you ran in certain independent music circles in Florida, odds are you ran into Cameron Harrison at some point. He fronted the energetic three-piece punk band, Betterment, as well as Saint Augustine emo punk unit Cute Fills. He also worked to book shows all over Florida, and when there wasn’t a place for bands to play, he created one out of a backyard, a dive bar, or a storage unit. Harrison has said farewell to Florida and is now working on a solo project out of Ohio called Farseek. The new album, March, is a full band recording, but all instruments were written and recorded by Harrison.
The vocals remain distinctively Harrison: alternately gravelly and strident, a nasal yelp layered over a Pavement-esque lackadaisical drawl. He has a phenomenal ear for melody but isn't concerned with pop delivery, letting the vocal layers separate, never lining everything up exactly. Harrison is in perpetual conversation with "you": apologizing, accusing, professing love, etc. Opener "Grateful Dead" begins, "All you ever wanted was to be you / but now you're just a caricature of what you were." On "A Letter," he sings, "April rolls around and you still feel dead inside / I don't know why you can't bring yourself to go outside." It's a blunt but sincere question that surfaces over and over throughout Harrison's songs: why do we feel so bad? Why can't we just feel better?
There's a self-loathing on March, but it's tempered by an outward gaze: there's a desire to move beyond self-limitations. "I don't think I hate everyone," he delivers sardonically on "Being A Cool Guy," aware that he's probably coming off like he does, "I just it hated it where it I was." On "You Didn't F*ck Up The Car," Harrison says, "Why did I tell you you f*cked up the car / I don't know anything about cars / sorry I'm f*cking dumb / I feel like a dick." His narrator is a bit neurotic, self-deprecating, and may be self-destructive, but he's aware of that and he wants to change.
Another thing about "...The Car": that's all the lyrics. The entire song is 23 seconds long, and while it's the shortest song on the album, it's not by much. March’s 7 songs clock in at well under 8 minutes. Unlike the frantic tempo of earlier Betterment records, Harrison packs songs with ideas but doesn't overwhelm them: a song like "Being A Cool Guy" is as balmy and unhurried as a Southern afternoon on a front porch, and feels like it easily could have gone on for three more minutes without wearing out it's welcome. The truncation feels like a conscious exercise: how many hooks can be packed into a single minute of music?
As it turns out: a lot. Every open pocket of the songs is filled with riffs, bright and tuneful, recalling the twinkling open tuned guitars of the emo revival while often leaning towards the southern warmth that gave such life Pinegrove's stellar Cardinal. Songs like “[Vape Joke]” function as minimalist pop statements through smart structure decisions. It's essentially just one progression but it builds cleverly, vocals and guitar coming in together for one measure before a marching drums snap in, and trailing off into a memorable vocal fry that serves as the songs defacto chorus.
This review already will take longer to read than the runtime of the album, and there is a question of why. Some may find it jarring and a little frustrating that the songs never repeat. However, the songs don't feel unfinished, they just feel radically trimmed. They settle into their groove immediately: Harrison requires no throat clearing to get to his point. Still, his melodic sensibility is developed enough that one can't help but hope that the next set of offerings from Harrison gives us a few sing-alongs, something that invites us in rather than reeling out its ideas and slamming the door.
Reviewed by: Keegan 1340