Music

Christian Lee Hutson: Yeah Okay, I Know

Christian Lee Hutson stretches his songwriting muscle on Yeah Okay, I Know, but gets bogged down by a dreary overall delivery.


Christian Lee Hutson

Yeah Okay, I Know

Label: Trailer Fire
US Release Date: 2015-01-06
UK Release Date: 2015-01-06
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

With a steady croon across a buoyant melody, Christian Lee Hutson welcomes listeners to his sophomore album with a pleasantly low-key invitation in the form of “One, Two, Three”. Its a considerably greater down-home picture than the acoustic, Americana-flavored inflections paint it offbeat, lo-fi blues of 2013’s The Hell With It opener “Texico”, but easier listening doesn’t pave way for a worse-off time. A quiet confidence exudes from Hutson’s grit-tinged vocal as he handles the miniature journey crafted by the rollicking folk-influenced opener like never before – a telltale sign that, in the two years since his debut album, he has become more relaxed in his skin as an artist. It's his best song so far by a miles-long stretch, and a defining moment on the album.

That said, as with his previous effort, Hutson doesn’t merely decide to stay in a singular soundscape without his fair share of musical meandering. “One, Two, Three” follow-up “Playing Dead” plays with a lo-fi rock inflections, whereas “That’ll Do” takes the classic Bright Eyes technique of finding something worthy of a tune in melodramatic imperfection and runs with it, though with a dependably balanced delivery more akin to the key of Elliott Smith. Hutson goes on to further his musical portfolio with the wah-wah friendly doo-wop progressions of “I Do Mean Well” with a jagged trill, and the old soul-meets-haunting electronica melodies and instrumentation of “Dirty Little Cheat”.

One would think that, for one as musically inclined as Christian Lee Hutson, a great album would just about come easy. However, even with all of the aforementioned above being said, even with Hutson’s abilities as a songwriter reaching greater experimental heights, and even as he gains more stock in himself as an overall performer, there is still something distinctive missing from his general presentation. Regardless of the impressive stylistic design of the track, Hutson proves himself to be more of an engineer than a singer.

Though there is emotion to be had, the overall delivery of his lyrics oftentimes comes off as one-track and trite, making it hard to uncover them from beneath the blanket of clever arrangements and slick production. It may have been the intention to make them second-rate on tracks like “Castle in the Air” or “Ghost To Coast”, both of which feature wildly unique instrumentation but ultimately fail to transition beyond the overarching Americana infrastructure of Yeah Okay, I Know enough to warrant not invoking a feeling beyond sardonic into his work. With that said, however, small tinges of genuine yearning and actual dynamism are to be cherry-picked from the album, and in it come its greatest moments. He strikes a chord midway through “Ghost To Coast” for an iota of a moment, and “No Apologies, Please” and "Late November", despite their equally sleepy pace, are truly affecting.

As it stands, it seems like Hutson is at a crossroads between Yeah Okay, I Know and however many dues are paid in between it and the next album. Yeah Okay, I Know is a work brimming with promise for the young singer-songwriter, and for what it’s worth, is a definite step-up from his previous effort in To Hell With It. With that said, there is still some way to go before he hits that intangible line that defines an artist who has totally filled their shoes.

All in all, the album has shown remarkable growth for Hutson, especially in the line of production and crafting his own muted instrumental atmosphere. Right now, however, he’s in this bizarre space between Dave Van Ronk and Radiohead while lacking the pertinent substance of either. Going beyond semi-brilliant experimentation, letting go of any studious tendencies, and letting loose will be key for Hutson to really hit his stride as a troubadour. As it stands, he’s all of the right parts without the sum.

6


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.