Oh, so you're one of those "sad songs make me happy" types, right? You might even have a t-shirt that shows how much you bought from American Aquarium. Of course, every true country fan has to be a lover of sad songs in some way. But if you really want to test your gut strength on some of the saddest bastard music ever released in the universe – at least that's on the country music side of things – this H. Self debut album could set the standard. It encompasses the essence of human suffering captured in songs.
Broken Live On is certainly not for everyone, and maybe not even for many traditional country fans. But if you scour the globe in a relentless quest for some of the most devastating feelings ever set to music, you will find yourself in Sweden, H. Self, and this album. He could be called the modern day Hank Williams of Scandinavia if Hank Williams was somehow even more of a tragic and suffering character. Fans of other profound masters of depression like John Moreland should also pay close attention and read on.
Finding the beauty of a withered flower, feeling a sense of comfort in the utmost solitude, wrapping yourself in sadness for warmth, and adopting self-loathing as a coping mechanism are practices that may seem completely alien to some. For others, however, one can find comfort and relief in these moments and discover profound things, while the lucky ones romp through life in their completely ignorant bliss.
Whether by nature or upbringing, for people who are prone to capricious tendencies, H. Self's music is like medicine, pity of grief that reminds you that you are not alone. In fact, H. Self has a song on this album called "It Could Be Worse" in which he conveys that no matter what depravity you suffer from, it can always be worse. You could be him.
H. Self's music brings slow and medium-paced arrangements to his sparse compositions and is little more than rhythm and steel guitar. In essence, these are mostly traditional country songs, and so they are written and often provide cutting lines and glimpses into the true nature of suffering, even though English is H. Self's second language. Nothing is lost here in the translation. The pain sensations are universal.
You would never suggest that an artist like H. Self go into making more engaging melodies or tightening up arrangements or anything. This would mean completely misunderstanding this music and offending poetic insight. Keeping the music loose and organic is essential to what he's trying to do. But that's no excuse to be sloppy about what some cuts on Broken Live On are, fiddling with the ends, or getting rhythms out of sync. And with the amount of reverb and echo, especially on some vocal tracks, this sometimes obscures the message of the song.
But what H. Self does is so powerful in the right hands, the writing style so sharp and concise, that it really defines the heart of sad music in the country area, and it would be irresponsible not to reveal this to the rest of the world . Because for some of those lost souls and sorely tormented fools out there who can barely find a respite from the emotional roller coaster ride of life, the music of a profound artist like H. Self is the only true ointment on the wounds of joyless life.
7.5 / 10