Brad Peterson – The Ellipsis Album
The Ellipsis Album is Brad Peterson’s first release since recovering from a major spinal injury that left him partially paralyzed for a time and struggling to complete tasks as basic as brushing his teeth. Music during this time period, naturally, took a distant back seat to the simple logistics of surviving day to day. Such setbacks are ultimately temporary to the truly creative and, as his health improved, Peterson found his thoughts increasingly turning towards music and songwriting. He draws from some obviously very personal experiences in the album’s thirteen songs, but it is never outright confessional and goes to great pains in its effect to connect the songs to universal listener experiences. The effort proves quite successful and the album gains further intimacy thanks to its production style – Peterson opted to handle all those duties himself and it likely results in the purest expression of his artistry yet in his career.
It is apparent we are in personal territory from the outset, but Peterson’s songwriting is developed enough to make even the most intimate moments ring out with an universal touch. Virtually anyone who has experienced life in a meaningful way, good times or bad, will relate to the opener “What the Open Heart Allows”. The acoustic guitar, sprinklings of electronic instrumentation, and tone-setting percussion come together very nicely, but it is all crowned by Peterson’s full-on, emotive vocals. “Unbroken” has much of the same strong drumming distinguishing the opener, but the arrangement isn’t quite as streamlined and has a more open-ended quality that makes this a more unusual listening experience. The same vocal qualities, however, come through and listeners will start to understand that presenting his voice is an area where Peterson excels mightily.
“All Roads Lead To Home” and “Montage Song (getting stuff done)” are probably The Ellipsis Album at its most electronic. Peterson never abandons traditional instrumentation entirely and the mix of these two approaches produces memorable results anchored by his intensely human vocals. “Underwear” will prove, undoubtedly, to be a real favorite with many thanks to its obviously pedigree as a love song of a sort and the humor Peterson slips into its narrative. It is the only song on The Ellipsis Album possessing such a strong hook and he makes the most of it to help this tune stand out even further. The quasi march tempo of “It’s Right Here” hints at taking off into something else entirely and never quite does, but the restrained tension helps make for a better tune. There are some minor musical adornments scattered throughout the piece, but percussion and synthesizer are the predominant aural strains composing the arrangement and Peterson’s vocal finishes it off nicely. “The Lesser Celandine” has a particularly inventive bass line and lyrics packed to the brim with concrete imagery – these two factors alone make it one of the album’s more memorable tracks but, once again, Peterson’s vocals bring everything home in a big way. The Ellipsis Album has something to offer all potential listeners and it is difficult, if not impossible, to not admire an album that takes so many chances and makes them all pay off.