What is it about heartbreak that evokes such gut-wrenching inspiration? Maybe it’s the exasperation of putting your all into something, only for it to disintegrate when you least expected. Or perhaps it’s a slow demise that you saw coming, though you held on a little too long, hoping to salvage the remains of the decaying relationship.
New York guitarist David Bronson tries to channel such emotions on Story, the first installment of his Long Lost Story album series, which stems from a failed relationship that caused Bronson to self-reflect. On Story’s 11 songs, he points the finger at himself and others to determine what went wrong. “And the saddest part about it was to lose the best of friends,” Bronson sings on ‘The Turns,’ the album’s guitar-driven opening track. Seconds later: “Before too long, you were staring down another.” So much for ending on good terms.
On the surface, Story harbours the same rustic, introspective ethos as Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago. There, frontman Justin Vernon tried to wash away years of pent-up heartache with soft rumination atop serene melodies. But unlike Emma, Bronson masks his vocals behind layers of drum cymbals and guitar chords, making his anguish a bit tougher to decipher at times. On Story, it seems the instrumentals are more important than the words; in certain spots, the music plays a larger role in conveying the album’s raw emotions. It doesn’t always work, though. On ‘The Ones,’ for instance, Bronson gets lost amongst the hard-charging soundtrack; its coarse rock sound gives an untimely jolt to the album’s mid-tempo procession.
Instead, Story flourishes when Bronson uses softer rhythms and allows the writing to take centre stage. The words aren’t particularly deep or awe-inspiring, but they accurately portray soul-searching grief. Perhaps that’s why Story plays like the introspective ramblings of a heartbroken man. He’s trying to reassess his place in the world while coping with lost love. “Could I be getting warm?” Bronson asks on ‘Outside.’ “If I’m cold, then just kill me.” On ‘Times,’ he mentions how he “woke up broken to the bone” and laments the time he wasted in the relationship. Throughout the album, Bronson vacillates between regret, anger, self-doubt and assuredness, all customary feelings when evaluating frayed romance. You feel Bronson wants to ascend from the despair, but he isn’t sure how.
So in the end, Bronson’s Story won’t stand as one of the great heartbreak records, but it seems that wasn’t the intent. The album plays like Bronson’s personal diary and a vessel through which he exorcises his personal demons. What stands is a decent recording from a reflective soul, one who’s purging his innermost feelings for all to see.
7Marcus J. Moore's Score