The product of a young talent, but not yet a distinctive one.
James Skinner 2012-05-02
Peasant is 26-year-old Pennsylvanian Damien DeRose, who has been writing, releasing and touring his particular brand of indie-folk music for years now. Bound for Glory isn’t its maker’s first work, and it doesn’t strive to break new ground. Instead it relies on DeRose’s ability as a singer in the firmly traditional mould in order to engage, and while this is an ability he is surely in possession of – there are some lovely, wistful moments over these 13 songs – it suffers from a magpie-like tendency to skip through genres and sounds without truly convincing in any of them.
This is a shame, because when Bound for Glory plays to DeRose’s strengths – such as on the off-kilter indie-pop of Girls or mandolin-fuelled stomp of A Little One; when it sounds playful, basically, instead of painfully earnest – it is fine indeed. DeRose’s voice is far from remarkable, but sweet, soft and confident nonetheless, it is very much at home in these surroundings.
It doesn’t help that so many other acts are brought to mind throughout the record. We’re Not the Same is a defiant break-up song that plays out like early, scrappy Cold War Kids; Amends could be straight off a Death Vessel album; Gone Far Lost is Bright Eyes circa 2000 minus the lacerating self-awareness; and the title track aims at Arcade Fire anthemic status but feels oddly undercharged.
Lyrically, DeRose often relies on tropes that, no matter how true, just feel a little lazy, and at 39 minutes it is difficult to say whether it is the mostly short songs or a lack of any general cohesion that make it feel so slight. The bluesy, aggressive Pretty Good would have sounded out of place anywhere on the album’s tracklisting, but next to Mother Mary (a hushed number couching its protagonist’s depression in religious imagery) the effect is completely jarring.
Not to sound wantonly critical, for there is work here befitting a young talent, but one supposes that is the central issue with Bound for Glory: it is the product of a young talent, and not yet a distinctive one.