There’s a particular charm to Tones, the new album by The Bergamot – something that can’t be easily quantified or described. There’s a certain enigmatic energy on this album, a kind of confidence that most musicians struggle to achieve. Nathaniel Paul Hoff and Jillian Speece construct songs with a strong pop sensibility, and when heard in succession there is an undeniable power to them. This is also combined with a fantastic backing band. The arrangements are almost impeccable, and Jillian in particular sounds strong when her vocals are supported by lush instrumentation.
The Bergamot is a Brooklyn-based husband-and-wife alternative folk duo consisting of Nathaniel Paul Hoff and Jillian Speece. The duo burst into the scene in 2012 and continue to create new music, stating that they write songs that “weaves intimate storytelling with articulate instrumentation” and “combines both the joys and heartaches of life into a story.” They draw influences from classic bands such as Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, The Dave Matthews Band, and Bob Dylan.
The album begins with “Forget About Tomorrow” with the melodic “ooh’s” coming in backed by a fantastic guitar lick. The song immediately finds its groove and doesn’t waste time with its hook. It grabs you; and the chorus, the title of the song, soars as drums come crashing down and thuds along to a catchy rhythm. I enjoyed the implementation of the guitar on the left channel as it moved along the fret, rising and falling, providing a great contrast to the accessible song structure. As I discovered while listening, the tone of the guitar throughout this album was highly enjoyable.
It’s very satisfying hearing rich, chiming guitars that compliment vocals well. Throughout the album, the guitar cuts through like a knife and it’s a wonderful sound – which is why I love “Alive.” The guitar riff on this song is huge. Like really big. It has a massive, ringing, guitar riff with a huge chorus and a strong hook. The optimistic chorus repeating, “We’re alive” works well, and the keyboard is infectious. In fact, every song on here has a strong hook, and not once did I lose attention. Moments like this pick the pace of the album up to its appropriate level with its as-close-to-a-fist-pumping-anthem that The Bergamot will get.
The production is impressive – raw when it needs to be and lush with a backing band. Jillian and Nathaniel’s vocals are stunningly sleek, and the music’s arrangement and mood are both complex and easy listening completing the soulful tone the album carries with a perfect touch. The way Jillian’s vocals flex on “Fade Away,” singing “Don’t you just wonder how life, it fades away” backed by strings and the bass coming in is pure and wonderful. And on “Remedy,” when she sings “He knows how good I’m feeling in my soul” with an emphasis on the word “knows” and how she stretches that word out to let it breathe on its own; it’s simply sublime.
“Money Honey” almost veers towards the heyday of grunge music with its infectious riff and a big chorus- “Hey now, everything’s gonna be okay.” The same sort of urgency also lifts the final song “Feel the Same,” building up to a climax- “It’s never the same but it feels the same.” There’s a great play between sparse and loud sound textures on Tones, and it always works.
Both Jillian and Nathaniel know what they are comfortable with, and each track is filled with confident energy and playful use of the guitar. It’s a wonderfully classic album while being simultaneously forward thinking.
The Bergamot is:
Nathaniel Paul Hoff