Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Jonathan Bellis is a singer/songwriter who took a while to release some of his music. Playing music for the last nine years and writing for four of those he decided to hit the studio last March and record his 11-song debut entitled Family Tides. There is no hiding it that the 11 songs are acoustic pop that he clearly enjoys playing. You can tell by the delivery in the words and the time he put into crafting lyrics. Most of the songs feature Bellis and his guitar but he creates enough variety within each song to keep things interesting. For instance,” If God Comes Down,” which sounds like a B-side from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah contains drums while there is some well-placed piano on a number of songs including “Anger in Mourning” and “Wet Cement.” Overall, the songwriting is pretty good throughout. There really aren't any duds and some of the songs get stuck in your head by the second chorus. While his lyrics are crafted with care they are often grim, sometimes self-indulgent and remind of the types of existential questions one would ask themselves in their early twenties.
The album begins with “Anger in Mourning,” which is covered in the melancholy that a displaced young person may experience . It’s hard not to compare the overall vibe of the song to Bright Eyes. While his voice sounds nothing like Conor Oberst’s, he has a similar delivery at least on this song. One of the highlights and shortest song on the album is “Wet Cement.” Featuring a repetitive, hypnotic guitar progression and an even better vocal performance with original lyrics I felt like this one was short and sweet. I enjoyed the old country vibe on “Past Tense” as technically proficient guitar playing eventually joins a minimal piano.
The album ends with arguably the best song on the album “Family Tides.” I loved his vocal delivery on this song as well as the spacey sounding guitar. The song sounded a bit looser than some of the other songs on the album and it was a good way to end the album. No doubt Bellis is a talented songwriter in spite of a couple of missteps. His debut is impressive and contains 11 songs that are worth your time to check out.
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