Alt Cape Suspenders is birdiebrackett’s debut full-length album – the first of three released on the same day, including the deluxe/demo album – and it is a journey. birdiebrackett is the solo project of Luke Bravo, a Tulane student and Louisiana native. To partake in Bravo’s journey, though, headphones are required. Sonically and conceptually, it is both dense and dynamic.
The album centers thematically around self-medication and the dark path that one can take in trying to help one’s self. That being said, the album sounds anything but dark with its catchy choruses and lovely harmonies. A good example is “My Baby,” a love song written from the perspective of a heroin addict. The songs “The Girl with the Black Hole Eyes” and “Talking to Myself Again” can stay stuck in my head for days on end. Dare I say, their melodies are addictive.
This conceptual piece is not short on characters, with “Muffin Man” who needs to get his act together and “Ghost Boy” who’s just trying his best to be noticed. The production is full of flanged meandering guitar, lush synthesizers, harmonies on top harmonies, spread far and wide to create a full stereo soundscape. Admittedly, the songs can be somewhat difficult to distinguish; they’re are almost too cohesive.
Concept albums are difficult to come by, and even more difficult to create. Alt Cape Suspenders is a very solid, very respectable attempt at one, and for that reason, I’ll say its overt cohesion is forgivable. On the surface, these are all songs that you can groove to; each one is a vibe. It’s the type of album you’d listen to while tripping on acid while laying under the moss-covered oak trees in Audubon or while drinking on a lazy afternoon, and in both cases, it showcases the irony of the album. It carries the same energy as a conversation between former addicts reminiscing, romanticizing their pasts while in rehab. Inevitably, those conversations end in a mutual acknowledgement that their joy was artificial, a desperate attempt at escaping pain. Their stories end with sobering denouements that justify why they stopped using.
Which leads us to the only issue I have with this album: it’s hard to see its own justification. It is a beautiful, emotionally complex album, but I have trouble finding the song that tethers these drug-induced reveries to reality, no retrospective acknowledgement. Or maybe that’s the point. It’s hard to have a come-to-Jesus-moment when your instinct is to drown it out with “Schedule 1 substances,” as is sung about in “Talking to Myself Again.” After all, it’s not an aural anti-drug campaign. It’s art. You should listen for yourself.
Alt Cape Suspenders is available on Bandcamp as a name-your-price release.