Published Feb 10, 2016The soft sounds on Brandon Kinder's first solo LP under the moniker the Wealthy West may not be much of a surprise to fans of Kinder and his Austin-based band the Rocketboys. On Long Play, Kinder moves through his familiar sonic landscape with a more personal focus, expanding on Volume 1 – An EP, which he released in 2011.
Kinder's new LP is a 45-minute musical boat ride, fluidly moving through temperate piano and guitar melodies that are gradually amplified and diminished like a water flowing into a placid pond. It all makes for pretty listening, but it never rocks the boat, and the passengers never get wet.
This is a problem. The introspective Long Play feels far too composed and lacks the intensity, personality and rawness that a self-reflective record of this nature should possess. With the exception of "A Miracle," much of the album is stuck in a familiar gully that runs unimpeded and perhaps too comfortably for Kinder. The smooth, consistent progression of the album and Kinder's polished pipes keep the listener from feeling that Kinder is really grappling with the feelings of existential wandering he touches on in "Come On, Sailor" and "Stuck in the Middle," which are far too even-tempered for such a thorny subject.
After a few tracks the arrangement begins to appear formulaic, usually beginning with slow piano or guitar that gathers momentum with the addition of percussion and/or backup vocals, culminating with a large chorus or two that recedes one instrument at a time.
It's unfortunate, because Kinder has the potential to carve out an impressive identity as the Wealthy West, one that is distinct from his other work. The opportunities for interesting risks are present, and if future Wealthy West records can capitalize on the successes of Long Play — namely the musical intrigue of "A Miracle," the subtle songwriting of "Ghost in the Garden" and expand on the record's rootsy instrumentation — Kinder may have an incontrovertible splash on his hands. (Independent)