This is Bret's first solo release, which spans 11 songs from as many as ten years back, tracing a winding path for the songwriter in unmistakably personal ways. Armed with a graceful command of song and a light, whimsical flair, an emergent awareness and control is revealed across a decade spent persistently picking away at his craft like a scab, only to find himself very much here and now, sort of bleeding a little. While the world around him continues to evolve and expands outwards, Koontz remains here in Chicago, gigging his way through odd collaborations and stumbling his way through relationships. Yet he did make it here, and that’s something, right? He’s on the other end of what resembles a culmination, recorded and etched to tape. We know what this feels like, Bret. The communion you have with those you love, and the loneliness you feel in spite of it. Hometown pride and bitter scorn at the same time, maudlin for the ones who’ve broken free but also damned pleased with what you can do, what you have done. Are they careening toward (what could be?) better things somewhere else maybe? Very maybe.
An elegant sort of pop is the main vehicle for Koontz as he meditates on these observations. Would-be simple songs just aren’t, so listen in -- a wistful guitar and can have a mind of its own without you even knowing it, turning light toe tappers into full, bonafide compositions instead that are more dense in theory than they are in practice -- easy the ears with an ingrained charm, but crafty backdrops for an artist to take advantage of with flourishes of patient piano, organ, percussion, and strings, most of which comes from Koontz himself, who wrote, performed, and produced the entire thing (only the breezy country ballad “The Claim” features an additional voice -- the lamenting drawl of Ian B on violin). As a result, Koontz’s personality and style gets these songs to smile even when they’re sad -- a brief glimmer and twinkle in each eye, an elbowed nudge to the ribs, the kind that tickles just a little and sticks with you later. Koontz is a friend and former collaborator of John Wheatley (aka John Bellows, whose music graced our grateful label’s catalog sometime in 2015). Like Bellows, Koontz’s music is as much a product of his own idiosyncratic imagination as it is influenced by those around him among the Chicago DIY community.
Bret releases Low Light Trades on Planted Tapes June 13th. Scroll down to pre-order, hear a sample, check out a brief interview with Bret, and scope his upcoming live dates in Chicago!
• Edition of 200
• Tapes ship 6/13/2017
• $8 shipped postage paid in the US & Canada