This may sound a bit hypocritical, especially as I often wax lyrical about my love of progressive music but, really good music actually transcends genres and is just, well, really good!
That oft maligned shock rocker Marilyn Manson, in a rare moment of lucidity, put it well when he said, “Music is the strongest form of magic.” Music has a rare ability to mend a broken heart and to send your soul soaring high into a much better place.
I don’t mean One Direction or similar bands either, they have their place in the musical world (I think?) but it is music of a much more commercial ilk and not one that appeals to me in any shape, way or form.
Not a promo drawn from the general pool but one sent to me specifically by the Lady herself, that fact was enough to make me sit up and take notice when Tiras Buck’s ‘Songs for Parked Cars’ arrived in the in-tray last week, one listen and I was thinking I had something different here. You’ll read my views soon but, first a little background.
Singer/Songwriter Tiras Buck hails from Pennsylvania, USA and has a musical style that takes chunks from the progressive genre but adds in symphonic tendencies and lush harmonies and strings to deliver a powerful emotional kick. ‘Songs for Parked Cars’ is his first full release and, on this album, he enlists the help of Echolyn’s Brett Kull and Paul Ramsay. Described as, “solitude and derisive introspection as soundtrack”, it is “emphatic pseudo-progressive anthems bonded with recurring themes.”
Opener Our Graceful Tide has a powerful hymn-like introduction with smooth strings and gentle piano providing the backdrop for a searingly impassioned vocal delivery. Buck’s voice has a quivering quality and the addition of the choir-like sing-along leaves me with an impression of some of the best tribal music from bands like Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It is highly compelling and poignant and leaves a lasting impression on your psyche. You Come Down (Appended with voices) begins with the lilting sound of strings over-laying earnest vocals in a pared back, impassioned style. A fervent guitar riff breaks the reverie and the track launches itself into a solid hard rock delivery with dynamic percussion and an urgent tempo. Imagine U2 but done in a symphonic style and you won’t be far wrong, except the vocals are much better! There is heart and soul invested in the vocals, as if Tiras is giving part of himself to his work, as the song comes to a close that grand choir effect is added again before things are brought to a graceful conclusion and the earnest vocals over-layed by verdant strings return. Preterition is a short interlude with a Mellotron vibe underscoring that fantastic vocal, once more delivered with a whole load of passion and intensity
Songs for Parked Cars: Prologue begins with a gentle piano over a wavering vocal full of sentiment. The harmonic choir adds an almost religious fervency to the song. Once again Tiras Buck takes a contrite route with his voice. This track takes on a more traditional singer/songwriter role in the bigger picture and I get that tribal edge coming to the fore again. There is something about Tiras’ music that stirs feelings inside you and makes you believe you can move mountains. To me, deep down, these are songs of hope and dedication. One of the longer songs Needing It takes on more progressive styles incorporating multiple song segments and diversifies between progressive, art rock and symphonic rock. Soulful and heartfelt vocals accompanied by an acoustic guitar lead the track in, the addition of a graceful percussive beat begins to lift the song and increase the tempo. As the strings are introduced the track takes on a much more symphonic edge. A complete turn-around begins as the guitar adds a note of insistence and the drums pick up the beat and add to the energetic cadence. Intelligent songwriting combined with impressive musicianship abounds throughout on this well crafted track that holds you entranced throughout its nine minutes plus running time. Passionate and touching, the introduction to Leave You With a Smile grabs you immediately with its soulful intensity. The incredible vocals are almost used as a musical instrument and add an ethereal elegance to the whole song. The keyboard line in the background drives the track along with a low key but fervent guitar and emotive piano combining to add additional lustre. I’m left wide eyed at the sheer ecstasy and beauty at the heart of this music.
The title track Songs for Parked Cars begins with a gentle string infused section and the vocals are delivered in such a fashion as to not break the spell engendered. The tension rises, held in place by a frenetic drum beat and clamorous guitar note as a more accessible, radio friendly track emerges. The quality is ever present though, it is almost as if Tiras has decided to take a more direct route to your musical soul and, to a certain extent, it works. Another well conceived piece of musical nirvana that, perhaps, lacks the kudos of the more intensive tracks, the run out of the track is quite exquisite though. Now we come to the final, and longest, track on this remarkable aural journey. The Guided Half-Life takes any emotional energy you may have left and divests you of it whilst giving back to you tenfold. Taking all that has come before and giving it an added layer of vivacity, it is like everything is clearer and more stunning, an added allure that takes it beyond the norm. The vocals are immense and resplendent, heartfelt and profound in their delivery. A melodic, symphonic progressive delight with dashes of art-rock glamour, as if Tiras Buck has laid his soul bare before you, it would be churlish to turn your back.
If you love well written music of any genre, if you appreciate music that mirrors the mind, heart and soul of the musician then, you will love this album. It is profoundly moving and, whenever I listen to it, I am left in a state of grace and of wonder and, let’s be honest, we’d all like to feel like that sometime wouldn’t we?