I went to school in Peoria, and at that point in my life, I was more concerned with Monday night drink specials and Thirty Thursdays than following the local music scene. I missed out on a whole damn bunch, one of them being Jared Bartman‘s wonderful indie folk songs with a dash of pop sensibilities. If you’ve never been to Peoria, it may surprise you that there’s more to that Central Illinois city than CATERPILLAR and Bradley University, one of them being this musician.
In November of 2013, Bartman released Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows. If you’ve been waiting patiently for another full-length since Jersey Shore (2009), this album is a fine, fine follow-up to that LP.
“The Cool of Your Temple” opens the album: a cool, acappella tune where Bartman is backed by an orchestra of female vocalists. Soulful and engaging, the song clocks in at only a little over 70 seconds, but flows without question into Latin-tinged “In Belize”. Violin accents this upbeat tune, and each element comes together to set a tropical, lively mood.
“Jackals” starts with energy, cymbal crashes, and briskly strummed guitar. Intricately orchestrated embellishments pepper the song, all together creating a haunting tone.
The spicy, calypso-inspired tune, “You’ve Been Drinking Again”, follows shortly after. The song is fun and upbeat with accents of female backing vocals and flute.
“Granada” ushers in the second half of Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows and is a definite change from the previous track. “Granada” feels almost like a lullaby, contemplative and unrestrained and open. “Garden Gate” is a narrative that returns some of that solidity to the album in the form of a strong, repetitive melodies for Jared to song along with. “Silver Screen” has an almost lazy delivery, and I mean that in the best way possible. The tempo of the album has fairly slowed at this point, and Jared’s vocals and accompaniments are what remain in this song, almost in isolation, to hold the audience.
Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows ends with “It Leaves You”, a stripped down song focusing on Bartman’s vocals and the strumming of acoustic guitar. As is no surprise, he lays it all out for the audience lyrically, leaving us hanging on every word.
Take Bartman’s nine songs, wrap them up in an album, and you’ve got one hell of a final product. His poetic lyricism and indie folk instrumentation come together to become a rich, well-rounded album. Bartman combines Eastern European and afro-Cuban influences with their more American counterparts of indie and folk, classical arrangements, and occasionally rock and roll. All in all, Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows is a perfectly accessible slice of indie folk. Peoria is lucky to have a musician like Jared within its city limits.