Usually, when a duo or band take a break from music, any solo acts that come out of it are softer, mellowed and more gentile than the group counterpart. Bryde, the solo project of Paper Aeroplanes’ Sarah Howell, bucks the trend with a stellar album of gritty rock tracks and is easily a contender for album of the year for me to date.
“To Be Brave” opens the album as a slow burn. Guitars hiss and curl around Sarah’s smooth but ready to roar vocals and the track evolves from a lone guitar to a rumbling crash of voice, guitar and drum like an eruption from the depths. In some ways, the album feels like a rebirth – a bit like an island funnily enough. and this track feels like Bryde is stepping into her new skin. “Less” is a four chord anthem with a screaming chorus, taut verse and a few riffs that will stick in your brain. “Flesh, Blood and Love” takes the usual rock sound and twists the emphasis on a thinner, synth-based sound that the late 80’s loved for a pop-rock anthem.
There’s still plenty of Paper Aeroplanes here though for fans of the duo. The verses of “Peace” are lush and warm before the raw anger of the chorus kicks in. Over the years, Sarah has honed her craft and she can write 3-minute epiphanies with ease. Her ability to take a simple chord structure and imbue it with emotion from her voice is paramount to what makes this album stunning. “Fast Awake” reminds me of Carina Round’s style of psyche-pop rock where it’s fast and slow at the same time.
After much rocking, “Euphoria” gives us a quieter moment of thought with piano and electric guitar working beautifully together before the western desert influence, which permeates the album throughout, comes to the fore with the twangy “Handstands”. Two more would be singles “To Be Loved” and “Desire” shows just how self-assured and direct Bryde is both melodically and lyrically. Two quieter electric acoustic ballads close off the album returning more to her roots. Both are fantastic and feel like after a real powerhouse of riffs, 4 chord rockers and huge vocal performances, Sarah’s come home exercised and ready to live in her habitat again.
“Like an Island” is the perfect example of what an indie musician can get up to. Each song is full of emotion, passion and charm whilst being catchy and containing an easy to get into depth. It’s a superb album without fault from start to end and I’ve had it on repeat since release. Grab it now.
Recommended track: Peace