After one of the most respected punk-rock bands from New Jersey, The Gaslight Anthem, announced an indefinite hiatus back in 2015, their frontman Brian Fallon went on a mission to establish himself as a solo musician. Brian released his debut solo record Painkillers in March 2016, which became a success and received a lot of positive responses from his fans and music critics; and so he quickly took a solid place among his fellow Americana singer-songwriters. Almost two years have passed and not only we are now very close to the release of Brian’s new album Sleepwalkers (out on February 9th) but to amplify the buzz, The Gaslight Anthem have recently announced tour dates in the US, UK, Ireland and Europe to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of The ’59 Sound record. It ought to be a great year for the fans of Brian and TGA.
As a big fan myself, I am very grateful to have been able to listen to Sleepwalkers before its release and to write about it. It is never an easy task to review someone whose music you have admired and got inspired by for all these years. I understand that music and records move us all in different ways so I shall not write too many details about the songs that fans are so eagerly waiting to hear. But I think it’s safe to say that Brian Fallon has always managed to write music and stories that have deeply connected with many people whether they were the songs written for TGA, The Horrible Crowes or his solo records. I believe that whether you are a fan of one or all of his projects, Sleepwalkers is definitely a crowd pleaser that embodies the very best of Fallon.
It opens with the already familiar, super catchy Motown inspired If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven which immediately lifts the mood and invites us to “whip these blues away” on this journey with Brian. Forget Me Not was the first single released to the public and one that got everyone talking about what will the new record sound like, hearing the similarities with Gaslight sound that wasn’t too present on Painkillers. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Brian worked on Sleepwalkers with Ted Hutt, who also produced The ’59 Sound. In the midst of all the curiosity, Forget Me Not became an instant hit with the fans. Brian once again impresses with his powerful rusty vocals and he’s not holding back as he shouts “Stacy” throughout the song and manages to combine dark lyrics with a very happy melody which works wonders. Brian himself has said that there are elements on this record that will remind listeners of his previous works because that’s who he is. There are undeniably some familiar aspects within the songs, but those aspects are the reason why Brian’s writing has won the hearts of so many people over the years. On Sleepwalkers Brian draws from his roots, influences, experiences and wisdom, and he brings this whole new spark and energy into this record as he sings these new profound stories his listeners can relate to. And he sings them as sincerely and expressively as ever. It is purely a feel-good record that will have you dancing with its first beat.
The most emotional track must be Etta James which is breathtakingly beautiful and moving both melodically and lyrically. Its massive chorus hits you right in the feels. It is no secret that Brian knows how to write songs that stir your heart and soul and sing them in such ways too. The 12 tracks speak of deepest fears, loneliness and death, but they also speak of love, freedom and hope. There is this unified understanding and connection which I believe is the true aim of Brian’s music. Personally, I love this record from start to finish because there is such a great contrast of genres and sounds on it, both modern and old school. It’s exciting, engaging and real.
As the final track See You On The Other Side concludes the record, the words leave us with a bit more faith in something good and so the album serves its purpose. Once again, Brian captures the essence of finest song writing and his true self, and with the help of producer Ted Hutt, he has created what could possibly be one of his strongest works to date. I believe that Sleepwalkers is a record he’s extremely proud of and I know his fans will be too.