Album Review: Max Gowan – Big People
Incoming sensation Max Gowan makes the most of his 18 years of experience on this Earth with his debut longplayer, Big People. His songs shine at the seams with an inexpressible youthfulness, and even in his more sombre moments, there’s still a wistful naivety to his work.
Big People is surprising in many ways. The melodies graft themselves to the songs with ease, and his vocals and guitar tracks are always pleasantly in tune. The arrangement of the songs are supple and suggest a mature musical sensibility. There’s also the fact that he wrote, recorded and produced the whole album in his bedroom, by himself. This isn’t just “an album that’s really good for an 18-year-old”. This is a deep, rewarding and welcoming piece of music in every regard.
Gowan cites his influences as Wilco, Elliot Smith and Deerhunter, and seems to have treated them as simply that: influences. There are never moments when these encroach upon the song, or remind us uncomfortably of a similar moment of another band’s discography. What is consistent with his influences is the attention to detail, the restraint present in the songwriting, and above all else, the lyrical style, which often occurs in paradoxes or ironic sentiments: “I knew it all along/Everything I was is gone/But that’s ok” he muses on closer, “Everything Is Cool”. Perhaps the closest point of reference is Real Estate, in that the deceptively breezy sound is compact, and the music has certain seasonal elements- an autumn drive, the classic spring sunlight- that underscore a deeper sense of unrest.
This is especially true of standout track, “Snow”, that feels shut-in, and “Face” feels like the cold beach breeze that is described in the chorus. It’s these almost subconscious moments that have the most vivid imagery. I feel compelled to once again remark upon Gowan’s age, and how disproportionate it feels when listening to his music. With a consistent tracklist, the end result is a rarely strong debut release. The longing for direction is purely a lyrical, and rather more personal, consideration.
While Big People will no doubt be under-looked simply due to the circumstances of its release, and many others will dismiss it because of Gowan’s age, it nevertheless stands as one of 2015’s best releases thus far. It might lack the cultural event of a high profile release, but ‘self-assured’ is a concise description of the LP. That’s not very common praise for a a debut album, and makes it all the worthy. Expect big things to come from Max Gowan.
Get the album and name your price over at Bandcamp.
Review by Adrian Pedić.