Palette by Night’s Bright Colors

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It’s a hair-thin line between making professional “Bedroom” pop music, and just… bedroom pop music. Night’s Bright Colors basically lives on top of this line, and in the process, creates a sound that’s one of a kind. Artistic, yet accessible and deeply relatable. Let’s find out more.

Hailing from Asheville, North Carolina, Night’s Bright Colors is the solo project of Jason Smith. Having been active since 2003, Jason has put out 8 albums and several EPs. With extensive conceptual themes that span multiple albums, Jason’s music isn’t as simplistic as it first appears, covering deep, touching themes, and spanning the musical boundaries between Pop and Folk with fluidity and ease. Palette is a compilation album, stated by Jason to be an accessible starting point in his expansive discography, and it happens to be just that. An entry point that’s poignant, colorful, and at once full of melancholy, and elation. 

Perhaps it might be helpful to state that a concept that Night’s Bright Colors focused on was that of spending a night in a mental asylum. The visual imagery that the concept brings would be greatly helpful in contextualizing the music at hand, with eerie, hushed vocals, washed-out mixed, and arrangements that explore the polar opposites of concise, clear sounds, and messy haphazard ones. Starting on a point of strength, Blue Eyes/Love In the Asylum has fluttering strums and a very colorful chord progression, and a characterful, double-tracked vocal track that’s going to be a mainstay throughout the album.

Blue Eyes quickly gives way to the contrasting Love In the Asylum. A restrained rhythm with prominent eeriness in the atmosphere, starting from the occasional, gritting sound effect, to the creeping vocal delivery, to an unsettling chromatic passage in the end. The Art of Misdirection is a manic tune that uses the infamous Hit The Road Jack progression. With catchy melodies and a playful arrangement that makes use of splashing piano notes, and a distinctive overdriven guitar, it’s jubilant and equally unsettling.

The coda is a rhythmically confusing staccato line on the piano that leaves a clear mark, which carries over to the next song, Secret Smile. Secret Smile has haunting melodies and an extremely cheerful sound. Dreamy, peppy, and very dynamic, Secret Smiles has mysterious lyrics and a colorful indie sound that utilizes a washed-out palette to create a hazy scene that’s unmistakably indie. 

Portland has a minimal composition with a distinctive sound to the drum line. A minimalistic composition that creates a soothing atmosphere with beautiful lyrics that are half clear and direct, and half ambiguous. The ending features a beautiful clean guitar part that stuck in my ears for a while. Little Lies is a short and sweet Pop gem, with the same distinctive drums carrying over from the previous song. The sound is playful and the lyrics are sweet. One Star Saint is one of the more special songs on the album, with a gorgeous string section and beautiful, loving lyrics that never quite make it clear what this love is aimed towards, making it open for interpretation.

A unique, folkish sound. Collide has a pristine production, a melancholic composition, and eerie, hushed vocals that perfectly fit the vibes. Beautiful Disguise has a folk rock arrangement with pronounced drums and an overdriven rhythm guitar line. The mix is indie and the final result is one of the most simply enjoyable and charming songs on the whole project. Sallisaw has an unsettling intro with a deep, sparse guitar part with a pronounced bass that suddenly gives way to an airy arrangement and a beautiful, driving composition. The guitar work is intricate and colorful, the vocals are still hushed, staying in character.

Woke Up features a driving rock rhythm that’s folky and consistent, with a hypnotic, elongated mid-section that had me lost and not wanting it to end as soon as it did. But when it did blossom back into the main body of the song, it was in the perfect rewarding way I didn’t realize I wanted. A clear highlight. Snow Day is a gorgeous instrumental medley. An ambient piece that’s soothing and delicate and beautifully paves the way for a stunning closer, Family House. In the same key, the segue is smooth and easy. Family House has a simple folk arrangement. With a prominent cello that plays a beautifully orchestrated line and a warm acoustic guitar, both delicately envelop Jason’s characteristic, hushed delivery, and intricate, colorful lyricism.

This album is exactly as described by its title. A palette. A palette of sounds and scenes and colors. The songs are greatly varied in vibrance, character, and mood, but are all essentially a part of the same artistic vision and direction, which is exactly how Jason manages to stay, effortlessly, on the professional side of “Bedroom” pop. An amazing songwriter that deserves a ton of attention and admiration.

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