Monday, December 3, 2012

Radical Face Lays Down Always Gold

Ben Cooper
Any time prolific indie-folk singer-songwriter Ben Cooper steps aside from Electric President to record something under his solo project moniker, Radical Face, he knows exactly how he wants it to sound (sort of). There isn't any collaboration. He sits down at the piano or with a guitar and makes it happen.

His newest EP is different. It's a collection of stragglers and alternate versions from his "The Family Tree: The Roots" recording session. The EP does reveal something else about the Jacksonville, Florida, creative. Cooper can imagine the same song differently.

Always Gold wraps up The Roots in advance of The Branches. 

Although buried in recording the second album in The Family Tree trilogy (The Branches), he felt a need to tie off the first album. It's not so unexpected. Cooper has previously said he works best when he can focus in on one project.

In essence, Always Gold is everything he left on the cutting room floor, including three versions of Always Gold. The first version — The Short Attention Span Mix — shaves off two minutes of play time from the six-minute track. In doing so, it doesn't quite capture the melancholy of the original.

The acoustic version, which plays even shorter at under four minutes, does a better job at retaining the sentiment. It's a heartfelt rendition without some of the sweeping folk elements that make the full length upbeat in the instrumental and haunting in the lyrics. The full-length version is included.

The power of the song is in the lyrics. It's about two tight-knit brothers who grow apart as they reach adolescence and adulthood. The regret-drenched lost years are ever present despite (or rather because of) one brother's willingness to reconnect while accepting that everything goes away.

Three other tracks make the Always Gold EP glitter.

Although Always Gold will likely spark interest in the EP, the other material deserves a spotlight too. We're On Our Way (originally released as a bonus track) celebrates family, friendship and the ability of some to lighten the load. Everything changes and sometimes we wind up just the way we dream.

The unofficial video was made with outtakes from one of the themed parties that Cooper and his friends hold a few times a year. This particular theme was to dress like lords and ladies, gallivant around a park, and end with a massive food fight. (There is an "official" video too, but this is the better one.)

The song is sharply upbeat, which is likely why Cooper didn't include it on The Roots beyond a bonus track. Most of the songs on the first installment of the trilogy tackle death and regret, much like the other standout track on this EP. Echoes is a retrospective lament on a less-than-perfect life, tempered only by the connection to one or more people who shared the same troubled experience.

The third track is a slightly altered mix of Wandering, a rarity that was originally included on the collaborative album Not Given Lightly (A Tribute To The Giant Golden Book Of New Zealand's Alternative Music Scene). The collection was originally released in 2009. While it doesn't have a direct connection to The Roots, it does carry a similar theme in how choices can shape what's to come.

A few graphs about The Family Tree trilogy.

For anyone unfamiliar with The Family Tree trilogy, it is a collection of about 47 songs that Cooper wrote over two to three years after looking into his family history. While some of it is based on his family, Cooper became fascinated with other families too.

These inspirations were then coupled with bits and pieces from books he had read, creating the fictional Northcotes family. Originally, Cooper had intended the project to be a single album, but his enthusiasm continued to expand with the material.

Always Gold EP By Radical Face Plants 8.4 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Always Gold mostly carries previously released work, but Echoes alone sets it apart. You can download Always Gold from iTunes or find the EP on Amazon. Currently, the EP has only been digitally released, but Cooper is considering a physical edition.

For more updates, visit the Radical Face Facebook page or give The Roots a listen before The Branches is released. The Family Tree: The Roots is also available on Amazon. Be sure to listen to All Is Well (Goodbye, Goodbye) and Ghost Towns if you do.
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