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Ari Hest – “The Fire Plays” Review

Ari Hest releases his seventh album on Tuesday entitled “The Fire Plays” and it’s a beautifully understated masterpiece.

Opener “Untitled Part 2” brings electric piano and hushed drums to the table in a warm embrace that is coated in Ari’s syrupy vocals. His voice is smooth and has a certain depth to it that it fills quite a big of the audio space up. The music wraps itself around perfectly. “Winter of Yes” is very Elton John with its heavy left hand on the piano while the chord progression feels upbeat and important at the same time. There is a confidence in the way how the song plays out in its controlled delivery. “Concrete Sky” keeps the hushed percussion that is present through much of the album but the piano and acoustic guitar swap main and second positions for a warming ballad that reminds me of how perhaps Vienna Teng or A City In A Lake would approach things. The dolphin guitars are a nice touch to this catchy track.

“Know Where” pushes things towards the rockier side of things as the electric guitar pops out and there’s some well produced vocal layering too. Ari’s vocals here appear to age and he is able to add a bit of extra gruff to the tracks where the guitar pushes to the fore. It’s a great place to start for a new listener. “All Because” is equally sweet and delicate as it is bitter-sweet with its lovely string arrangement behind the acoustic guitar. Other instruments join in too but this song is best to be played on a rowing boat wrapped in a blanket – in my mind anyway. Title track “The Fire Plays” returns to piano as the main instrument for this sombre track which again doesn’t clutter things but uses other instruments delicately. In fact the whole production of the album has a warmth about it where nothing stands out at all and it feels so glued together it’s like a Vinyl without the hiss.

“For A Little While” bring the tempo up a notch with a more feistier upbeat track with some nice brass arrangements and Ari’s choice of chord structures making things always seem uplifting as the song keeps gearing up. “Couldn’t Have Her” is a quiet acoustic guitar/vocal ballad for the most part that veers towards the country roots – especially when a female guest vocalist comes along to really twang it! “Set In Stone” sounds sonically different to other tracks. Ari’s voice is louder and the acoustic guitar sounds almost like it’s been recorded in a live session. It’s a wonderfully delicate track and one of my favourites from the album for its simplicity and fragility. “Last So Long” delights with a finger picking western tinged track that has a galloping acoustic percussive beat and the melodies here are sublime – almost dreamlike as the guitar shimmers over the layered vocals. Closer “Something To Look Forward To” is a cute ballad.

Having discovered Ari on his seventh album I feel like I’m an utter newbie but there is so much warmth and togetherness about this record, I feel like Hest has produced something that feels utterly complete, wrapped with a cute bow and is brimming with soft sweet embraces and kisses galore. It’s not often a genuinely sweet album can really hook me – this site’s testament to the fact I love artists whom shout and scream their heads off. This is exceptional.

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