Music

Leon Bridges: Coming Home

Leon Bridges harkens back to that earlier era of rock history when quiet and sincere could be just as radical as its opposite.


Leon Bridges

Coming Home

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2015-06-23
Amazon
iTunes

Searching for the still small voice that dwelt within the soul of early rock and roll can be a thankless task. People treasure moments like Elvis and his swiveling hips, Chuck and his duck walk, Jerry Lee literally setting his piano on fire, et cetera, but the quiet moments of the era seem to be forgotten. Audiences at the time perceived gems like The Platters’ “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, Lenny Welch’s “Since I Don’t Have You”, Tommy Edwards’ “It’s All in the Game” as real rock, despite the fact that they weren’t loud, lively, or had a pounding 4/4 beat.

Leon Bridges hearkens back to that earlier era of rock history when quiet and sincere could be just as radical as its opposite. He frequently gets compared to Sam Cooke because of their vocal similarities, and while there is some merit to this, there are important differences. Cooke sang his mellow music as an attempt to be a commercial success on a national label. Check out his “Live at the Harlem Square Club” for a more unvarnished Cooke, and perhaps a more accurate offering of Cooke’s raw ability. Bridges’ music follows the opposite track. He’s inherently smooth and melodious.

Bridges’ easygoing approach makes his music accessible. When he sings lines such as “I want to shine like the candle”, it’s clear he is not about to set himself on fire for anyone. His passion is to be “a better man”. The object of his desire is “a cutie pie”. The songs are full of such examples of Bridges’ seeming tranquility. In fact one of his most lively songs is entitled, “Smooth Sailing”. But this is just a rhetorical façade. His voice has a seductive quality that beckons one to feel deeply. The gentle doo wop beat that surrounds his serenade to his “cutie pie” (re: “Brown Skinned Girl”) suggests he wants to do more than just hold a stranger in his arms. In the early years of rock, singers used these kinds of euphemisms because records would not be played on the radio if they were too suggestive, Bridges can sing sexually explicit lyrics but chooses not to as a way of being even sexier. Just like a person wearing clothes can be more seductive than a naked being, Bridges uses a more innocent style to be sultrier than a singer offering risqué lyrics.

Of course just like a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, sometimes Bridges unhurried approach to the music is just that. The most earnest cut, “Lisa Sawyer”, tells the story of his mother’s life, including finding Christ at age 16. He offers no hidden meanings to his mother’s ability to survive hard times and thrive with the little she had. Bridges comes off as a proud son paying tribute to his parent; nothing more, nothing less. The fact that he can make this into a compelling tale without overdramatizing the details reveals his knack for narrative. He can sing a story.

Coming Home shares another quality with those albums from the early rock days. It’s short. The majority of the 10 songs are in the three minute range and the album only lasts about half an hour. That’s actually a benefit. Bridges’ journey to the past is a pleasant journey, but one wouldn’t want to live there. Remember, the days of early rock were also one of social conformity, restrictive sexual mores, racial inequality, Cold War fear, etc. It was a time of repression. While it’s been said that suffering can create great art, who really wants to suffer? Bridges doesn’t. His relaxed manner symbolizes the advances that have occurred. One can chose to perform in a historic style and make it fresh and new without being retro. Coming home doesn’t mean one returns to the past. It simply implies Bridges finds comfort in the music from back then, when the music’s profound revolutionary nature was found in its serene manner. This made it more adult, during a time when teen music was considered kid’s stuff. Bridges’ album is for youth with mature tastes.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


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.