Sam Brookes - Kairos | Album Review | By Volume

The kid that went down isn't dead; he just can't find his phone. The Hold Steady - Almost Everything

Sam Brookes


Brookes bends time and genre with lovely, satisfying folk.

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Author: on March 20, 2014

Kairos is a hug from your best friend, a head scratch from a lover, a solitary plunge into your favorite body of open water. It’s a hot tea and a cold beer at once.

In his quiet, earnest way, Sam Brookes has written a record that insists everything will be alright, simply because it has to be. He takes us into his darkness on “Numb,” when in between haunting whistles and under ominous claps, he sings, “Where is my love, for I won’t be coming home tonight.” The pain creeps into the air and threatens to suffocate you. But then he about-faces and opens the next song with a reminder that creeping and thundering pain is temporary — “James, don’t forget yourself when you’re across the water.”

“Don’t forget yourself” could be the motto of this album. Don’t forget yourself; don’t succumb. Glue your broken heart back together with people and places that make it worth fighting on. In album standout “On The Mend,” Brookes shrugs his shoulders at the realization that he may have come out on the other side of the shit that’s been crushing him in a song that feels and sounds like the first sign of light on the mental horizon when depression begins to loosen its grip. After so much pain, the body hardly knows what to do with feeling better, and the brain races with terror that you’ve forgotten how to be okay. But better may just show up anyway. *Shrug.*

Kairos is musically fascinating. “No Time” seamlessly blends electric and acoustic noise and plays with tempo and tone. “Frequency” sounds like a song Fleet Foxes could have made if Helplessness Blues had been a better record. Folk seems too soft and shallow a word for the multitudes this album contains. Yet “Crazy World and You” is a perfect folk song — it lilts and swirls with a profoundly positive message that celebrates the ludicrous joy of falling in love (“May you never doubt the beauty that you are/I’ll change my day if you need me most”). But it does so in a way that feels daring and challenging even as the song remains simple. Brookes’ vocal performance impresses throughout, and “No Time” in particular shows off his range and lovely falsetto.

If it is a folk album, and I’m fairly sure it is, it is the boldest and brightest folk album since Tallest Man On Earth’s 2010 effort The Wild Hunt. In a decade when most people associate folk with Mumford and Sons and The Avett Brothers, Sam Brookes injects life into the word. The word “Kairos” comes from Greek and refers to the right and opportune moment — in contrast to “chronos” from which we get chronological. His play with time on the record conjures Vonnegut — the order of things are not important so much as the way they all collaborate to create the present instant. We are not in control of our destinies, and yet we can invite our destiny to arrive in this moment. We do not control the past, but we can shape how it affects the present.

In “One Day,” he sings “What is this life, why do we strive? Fast on a wheel, too fast to feel. One day, my love, this life will slow.” This album begs us to slow down, to allow ourselves healing. It invites us to seek love in various forms — romance, profound friendship, self-care. Album closer “Breaking Blue” brings the record full circle, singing us: “There is a love, there is the light, every time, such a fight I wanna start anew. / Look to the sky.” It makes no promises about what we will find there, simply entreats us to keep looking for the love and light By inviting us into his stories of loss, love and healing, Brookes’ creates work with the potential to be part of your own healing. Even at its slowest and tenderest, Kairos is urgent. This could be the moment. Don’t forget yourself.

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