Review: Chris Bierden’s “So Long”
Bassist Chris Bierden has a long resume that’s highlighted by some of the most notable rock bands the TC has seen in the past decades (Poliça and Vampire Hands to name a couple). He’s also long performed solo as Invisible Boy, releasing just a single record some five years back (though IB’s true genesis was quite a while before that). Despite the pedigree and Bierden’s obvious musical talent, IB always cruised well below the radar of some of his more “visible” collaborations.
For his long-awaited follow up Bierden jettisoned the Invisible Boy moniker in favor of his own name. He also packed together a crack roster of studio conspirators to help produce his sound. In many ways So Long feels like Bierden’s opus, his “arrival” as a solo musician. It’s a bit ironic that it’s called So Long, and lyrically feels a bit more like a final send off.
Going back to streaming Bierden’s debut solo I noticed a fan comment, “it’s like biting into a 37 layer cake of sonic goodness.” It’s not inaccurate, and it’s a descriptor that could apply even more so to the latest songs. So Long is composed of intricately plotted layers. The core of the sound is a solid platform of keys/synth, drums, bass, and guitar (Bierden and guest Jeremy Ylvsaker both play), which the musicians take in all sorts of directions, spanning psychedelic rock, glam, and other flavors of pop. On top of that are a number of guest instrumentals – CJ Camerieri (yMusic) adding brass here, or Thora Sveinsdottir and Alistair Sung contributing strings there, for example. Of particular note is Ben Lester’s pedal steel accompaniment which gives select tunes an understated but otherworldly cosmic country vibe (particularly album standouts “Dark Horse” and “Not A Lie”).
The consistency that runs through every tune is Bierden’s vocals, sung in a ghostly falsetto (occasionally reminiscent of Marc Bolan’s upper register). Bierden is backed up in a few spots by additional vox (notably by Justin Vernon, Camilla Staveley-Taylor, and Andrew Broder in another standout, “Heavenly”) but the lyrics and tone are his alone. Bierden’s introspective lyricism mostly gives the work a somber feel, but it’s also not without its moments of more playful energy (bass-driven “Rule The World ‘ is a good example).
Chris Bierden has had a remarkable musical career in the Twin Cities and So Long is a reflection of both the musical skill and influences that have come in that time. It may be titled as a farewell, but hopefully that doesn’t mean an end, since this certainly doesn’t sound like an artist who has exhausted his voice.