By Caitlin Stobie
Image taken from the Night Reports MySpace page.
When poet Derrick Brown started an alternative musical project called Night Reports with Beau Jennings, I was sceptical. Not because Derrick Brown can’t sing – his incorporation of melodies into his poetry performances proves he is a musician in his own right. I was dubious because Night Report’s debut 2011 album, You’re All Out, is a self-described “haunted sports musical”.
The album follows the story of a lovelorn baseball player with a haunted bat. His game gradually worsens as he becomes obsessed with his muse, and as luck would have it, the object of his affections grows less and less enchanted by him as his game weakens. It may not be the love story of the century, but it certainly is a welcome deviation from the latest releases of Muse and Coldplay, who both seem to think that a concept album must be set in a futuristic dystopia.
The track listing on You’re All Out isn’t promising at first glance. Brown is well-known for his comedic quips in his poetry, and with song titles such as French Chicks (World Music is the Real Criminal), the project threatens to be a cheesy, American version of Badly Drawn Boy.
Thankfully, this is not the case. Even though its lyrics can be tongue-in-cheek, the album avoids cliché by taking itself slightly seriously. Most songs feature sombre piano riffs and occasional violin tracks, giving the music a melodic baroque sound. A few tracks could be mistaken for b-sides from Rufus Wainwright, if it weren?t for the fact that Brown’s voice is ear-honey when compared to Wainwright?s throaty croons.
The real gem of the album is the opening track, Are You on My Team. Brown sings with genuine adoration to someone who seems to already be out of love, and Jennings’s flirtation with minor chords on the piano creates a sense of hopeful desperation that any confused lover can relate to. Brown?s pithy lyrics are simultaneously haunting and romantic, causing the song to come to a chill-inducing crescendo as he repeats “This year’s been a long one/You have been the strong one”.
Songs such as Make Me Want to Win emphasise other musical elements like infectious guitar riffs and jangling drums that stop the album from becoming a monotonous showcase of melancholy ballads. Through changes of tone and instruments, Brown and Jennings create sincere, heartfelt emotions in a bizarre narrative. By the end of the album, it’s hard not to empathise with the out-of-luck sportsman.
One of the only pitfalls of the album is that some of the wit behind the lyrics, such as references to Major League players Pete Rose and Bill Buckner, will be lost on listeners who aren’t familiar with the game. However, this is only a minor setback. Even though the album deals with unusual subject matter, its touching on universal themes of love and loss makes it a definite keeper. If you like artists with quirkily poetic lyrics, or if you ever collected baseball cards, then this one is definitely for you.
Are You on My Team by Night Reports, taken from their BandCamp page.