With society shifting toward individualism thanks to the Internet and personal branding, it’s becoming more realistic for musicians to succeed as individuals. Whether it was Adam Young’s electro-savvy pop tunes or the bedroom recordings of Youth Lagoon and Fog Lake, the emergence of do-it-yourself as well as do-it-all artists marked a unique shift in the ever-connected Information Age. Much credit is owed to sites like Bandcamp that foster communities for these musicians, but it’s also important to recognize the people behind the albums for their musical skills, scene knowledge, and, most of all, determination. Sam DeBurgh, a Wisconsin native and the mastermind behind Slow Bullet, is soon to add his name to the list of triumphs with his debut full-length, Still Close Enough to Go Back.
Flaunting a sound reminiscent of many ‘90s and early 2000s indie rock groups, Slow Bullet initially brings Pedro the Lion and Elliott Smith to mind. But apart from the college rock circuit from previous decades, DeBurgh embeds hardcore and and post-hardcore vibes into the 28 minutes of his first record as well. Don’t be surprised if you draw comparisons to As Cities Burn, Thrice, or My Epic, especially with the atmospheric instrumentation and raw vocal delivery. Again, though, the material is about as stripped-down as any existing singer-songwriter — save for a few rock-out moments. The opener and title track depicts both sides of the artist, as he mumbles out lines in front of chilling guitar strums before breaking into full band mode in the final minute.
Yet, it’s songs like “The Fiscal Year” where DeBurgh’s brand of expression is fully felt. His mirrorings of David Bazan make the Seattle legend come off more as an inspiration than a means of emulation. Track two, as well as “Forgive Yourself” and “Love Song”, mesh a soothing resonance and relentless grunginess, and it forges an up-close-and-personal identity for the Wisconsinite. It’s in moments such as the acoustic “Survival” and short piano ballad “What a Friend” where his religious overtones arrive in full force. DeBurgh is obviously a man of faith wrestling with a lot of questions and feelings, but he still falls back on his foundation at the end of the day. The thickness coating Still Close Enough appears in themes of mortality and sadness, in addition to unwavering existence.
The title of the closing track, “Man Is Born for Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward” references the Book of Job in its honest depiction of the world. If it’s inevitable that people commit wrongdoings due to the nature of who they are, then mercy and forgiveness are inevitable as well. Still Close Enough to Go Back is DeBurgh’s cry out to God for understanding amid his mistakes. The moment is the record’s most visceral, and it showcases a musical artist following in the vein of Bazan, Dustin Kensrue, and Cody Bonnette as a vulnerable singer therapeutically singing himself out of darkness. DeBurgh’s sonic musings are sure to resonate, just as Slow Bullet is sure to grow its following in the wake of this comforting indie rock release.
Indie Rock | Blood & Ink Records