Percussive palm-muted strums start a blaze that’s tough to put out in the opening bars of So Much Beyond Us’ title track, which boasts a bucolic string harmony from Brooks Forsyth that will become par for the course as we advance our way through the tracklist of this latest album from the rising indie icon. A jittery swing groove awaits us around the corner in “Anna Lee,” but to say that Forsyth’s exquisite singing takes a backseat to the instrumentation framing it here simply wouldn’t be true. The vocal is the biggest jewel in the crown that So Much Beyond Us fashions for its composer, and while I’ve heard some explosively good crooning from the alt-country realm this year, I’m not sure that anyone has moved me as much as this man has with his brand new LP.
“Girl from Caroline” has a fairly stock beat, but its strings are as vibrant and kaleidoscopic as a Front Range rainbow. Forsyth’s video for the single “Cast My Dreams to the Wind” is set in colorful Colorado, which affords the perfect backdrop to the song’s pastoral tonality and our dashing lead singer’s rustic look. We watch the players join forces and put down one of the most emotive melodies to behold in So Much Beyond Us like it’s second nature, and though “Ain’t Got the Time” might have made just as strong a single, it’s not hard to see why “Cast My Dreams to the Wind” was selected to represent this album. Its radio-ready rhythm could bring Forsyth the international attention he’s been looking for, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still one of the most streamlined songs he’s ever released.
“Seasick James,” a self-proclaimed “purgatory story,” emits a little bit of irreverent darkness that influences our perception of the songs that follow it just enough to keep us on the edge of our seats as “Don’t Come Around No More” comes into focus. This song, and its contrasting counterpart “Blue Railroad Train,” was the most difficult for me to breakdown because of its oddball arrangement, which flanks traditional folk with bluegrass-style grit in a fascinatingly experimental cocktail. “Restless at Home, Lonesome on the Road” gets us back onto some familiar footing, but it in no way waters down the affect that the two tracks that precede it have on anyone listening.
“Little Coal Mining Town” sounds like a cut from Bob Dylan’s self-titled debut, but it has just enough of an original tone to tether it to the modern folk model. So Much Beyond Us comes to a close with the soft “Heaven is but Going Home,” and when we listen to the album from start to finish without any significant interruptions, this final song brings us to a full circle narrative that we first began with in the title track. Brooks Forsyth has made some really awesome music in the past, and I was expecting a lot out of his latest release, but I had no idea that he was capable of delivering something as endearing and monolithic as this LP is. His sound is taking him places, and in my opinion this record is the most definitive of his young career.