Kip Berman, former The Pains of Being Pure at Heart frontman, examines the changes in his life and shift in priorities since the band split on ‘Tethers’ – the first album to be released under his The Natvral moniker. Over the past few years, Kip’s life has changed dramatically – he welcomed two children and moved from Brooklyn to Princeton, New Jersey and road trips in cramped tour vans were replaced by afternoons playing whimsical songs. Writing songs after the children’s bedtime, Kip found a new sound – one without effect pedals, overdubs or even a metronome.
Recent single ‘Why Don’t You Come Out Anymore?’ opens the album in timeless Dylan-esque style as Kip examines the differences between his life as a touring artist and those friends who changed while he was playing shows to audiences around the world. Full of swirling atmospherices, this sound continues through to the more jangly ‘New Moon’ – a song that has a key theme of ageing and acceptance: ‘Did you ever think you’d see the day you’d turn 33 and want to be anywhere but here?’ ‘Sun Blisters’ continues with this examination of past relationships – ‘Love to you’s just a pretty song and I’m a sour note’ – while ‘New Year’s Night’ transported us back to the early 2000s with its melodic and fuzzy garage rock opening. This soon turns into something more melodic and melancholy as Kip thinks about past lovers and where their lives have headed.
‘Tears of Gold’ is an emotional outpouring over sparse bursts of dreamy guitar lines and drumbeats, bringing to mind The Boss’s more reflective moments, while ‘Sylvia, the Cup of Youth’ finds Kip again comparing the direction of his life to that of an ex who’s constantly trying to find her place – whether that be through constant travelling or simply getting drunk in hotel bars – and keep her youth alive: ‘I’m older than I was and I was older then, you seem the same’. This song also features nods to classic folk storytelling with its historical references as Kip remembers how ‘Sometimes you’d kid and say I was your Galahad, I never was as good as that’. The album finishes in suitably somber style as Kip remembers smoking by the window and being ‘drunk on the brain’ on ‘Alone in London’. He then talks about meeting someone’s ‘wine-stained lips’ and recalls how ‘I tried to resist you’ against a blend of
If you admire honest storytelling in the vein of Tim Kasher, Jeff Mangum or Pete Seeger, you’re going to love this gently powerful record.