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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

Zach Bryan’s ‘Boys of Faith’: A must-listen-to fall folk-country album

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Trey Paine | The Observer


Zach Bryan’s new surprise EP, “Boys of Faith,” definitely got one thing right: the album is nothing short of a religious experience. The EP follows closely on the heel of Bryan’s self-titled fifth album, which was released in late August. “Boys of Faith” was first teased on Bryan’s social media with a picture of Noah Kahan, one of the features on the five-track EP, and Bryan’s dog, Jack, in the studio. The photo itself generated an understandable amount of buzz from the music community about the possibility of a collaboration between the two artists, who first appeared onstage together in early August at the Hinterland Music Festival in Saint Charles, Iowa to close out Bryan’s set with his hit song, “Revival.”

Bryan added to fan’s excitement when he released two demos on Sept. 17, the much-anticipated song featuring Kahan and its unanticipated counterpart featuring indie-folk artist, Bon Iver. It was in this post that he first hinted at the name of the still unconfirmed EP, ending his heartfelt caption by thanking Bon Iver and Noah Kahan, “them boys of faith.” Less than a week later on Sept. 22, without any advanced notice, Bryan released the EP on all streaming platforms.  

The album solidified Bryan’s already apparent lane within the country genre. The 27-year-old’s music has always had a stripped-down feel, separating it from the commercialized aspects of the genre and introducing a vulnerability and depth that never fails to resonate with listeners. With the addition of Kahan and Bon Iver, the EP takes a distinctively folk approach. However, the remarkably familiar feeling of the album shows just how comfortable Bryan is pursuing the intersection between folk and country. 

The five-song collection packs no less of a punch than the artist’s longer studio albums. It perfectly reflects the environment he described producing the tracks in.

“Locked myself in a studio all week, wrote myself through a notebook, walked around with people I love in the city then went campin, felt restful and hopeful, thankful for breathin no matter the day, just grateful,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

It is the perfect mix of city and country, with the energetic combination of the drums and fiddle in “Pain, Sweet, Pain” and the slow thrumming of the bass guitar in the EP’s title-track “Boys of Faith.” 

But more than that, the most notable thread running through the album is the message of hope that Bryan references in his songs, summarized in the closing lines of the EP, “Pain, sweet pain, let’s learn somethin’ from it / I see the top, brother, and I might just summit.”  The tracks, while unique in their composition and skillful lyricism, reveal a complex layering of anticipation and escapism: they focus on the chase. There is an acknowledgment of the benefits of space, between people, between places, with lines like “Don’t come back, lover, I’m proud you’re under the skyline” in “Sarah’s Place” and a disregard for such distance in the conclusion of the song, “Plane tickets have gotten awfully expensive /  But I got mine for the price of a Gibson” (anyone who listened to that line and didn’t have it stuck in their head for days afterward has my utmost respect). 

“Boy’s of Faith” is the perfect folk-country soundtrack for fall. The EP leads listeners on a journey through life’s ups and downs, and it encapsulates a feeling many college students identify with: simultaneously yearning for something lost and feeling at peace away from it.