Walk It Off
Independent release, 2011
REVIEW BY: Julia Skochko
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/15/2011
When we look back on our lives, our memories usually aren’t in full-screen, surround-sound glory. More often, they’re like a series of snapshots, images that encapsulate days, months and even years. On the front, thin slivers of time, and on the back, scrawled across our psyche with a Sharpie, exactly what they’ve meant to us.
Never is this more true than with relationships. From the photo booth makeout session of a one-night stand to the multi-volume opus of a forty-year marriage, everyone you touch – and who touches you – gets space on the bookshelf. Reminiscing on past loves is like leafing through your life. In a matter of minutes, you can watch a relationship blossom and grow, falter, and disintegrate.
There’s the “Second We First Met,” “First Kiss,” and “Whispered I Love-You.” There’s “Burgeoning Boredom,” “Screaming Fight In The Supermarket Parking Lot,” “Realizing You’ll Never See Her Again.”
Adam Byer’s latest album, Walk It Off, would be a pitch-perfect soundtrack for the snapshot titled “Moment Of Grace.”
It doesn’t come immediately after a breakup, like “Moment Of Crippling Self-Loathing.” It doesn’t come months later, like “Reflecting Upon The Fact That She Still Has Your Rush T-Shirt And Probably Isn’t Gonna Give It Bac.k.” It usually happens a few weeks after the worst of it and a few beers before last call.
Your heart’s still banged up, but for a brief moment, you’re funny, witty, reflective, and sloshed enough to turn it into something beautiful. It’s shooting a perfect game of pool while crying. It’s spray-painting a poem on an overpass. It’s singing a song to an answering machine, knowing she’ll probably never listen to it and not giving a good goddamn.
The eight songs on Walk It Off capture that moment perfectly. They’re simultaneously wistful and winning. Strong percussion and piano work anchors lyrics which are both clever and deeply human. Walk It Off evokes Ben Folds and Warren Zevon, but with a warmer, more homespun feel than either of ‘em.
“Settle” saunters in as a loose-limbed, snaky groove; midway through, it’s invigorated by a blast of crunchy guitar and vocals which escalate from murmur to assertive yowl. It’s a fine preview of the strong, self-assured songwriting which follows.
“Drinking Beer” is a great example of Byer’s lyrical strengths. It’s a strong, ‘70s-esque piano ballad with a slightly more demented angle than most. Plenty of guys have serenaded their lost loves, but few of them with this level of brutal honesty: ”I’m gettin’ drunk, I’m watchin’ porno, I know that’s nothin’ new, but now when I do, I think of you.” It’s decidedly Zevon-ish, with dry humor almost but not quite concealing a legitimate ache. As it barrels out with whistles and a zippy little piano breakdown, it’s impossible not to smile.
“Good Person” is a deceptively sunny meditation on girls, ethics and combining the two. Over chirpy keyboard riffs and summery guitars, Byer dissects opportunistic male douchebaggery: “They say I’ve gotta relax and give girls a chance, take a chance / Don’t mind the slurring or the fingerprints / But I’m not buyin’ it.”
“Bane” is sadder and more powerful than its predecessor. Tight, clean drums and piano and a mournful flute ebb and flow from half-mumbled mournfulness to flat-out accusation and back again (“But she never believed that we’d end up together... because that would require you not screwing up... at least that’s what I think”) before fading to black.
“Forgotten” is the album’s most sophisticated and complex track. It’s well-layered, with its judicious use of fuzzed-out guitars really accentuating an otherwise clean, piano-driven composition. The breakdown at the end is a whirlwind of guitars and organ, a strong, sprawling conclusion which evokes AOR tracks of yore when men were men, mustaches were glorious and songs were allowed to develop beyond the 3:35 mark.
Walk It Off closes strong: “Two Girls And Seventeen Women” mixes weary vocals, a simple piano line, and a litany of (supposed) post-breakup conquests into a sweetly acidic delight. The combination of an infectious piano riff and Byer’s tongue-in-cheek bravado (“No, I haven’t gone without more than one day / Each one better than you in some way”) is immensely winning, much like the album itself. Successfully combining humor, humanity, and musicianship is no mean feat, and Byer does with confidence and style. If you’re having troubles with your special someone, you might consider storing an emergency copy of Walk It Off and a case of beer in the garage. When it all hits the fan, it’ll be exactly what you need.