By Alessandro Improta
To anyone who has been anywhere near the Provo music scene in the past decade, John Allred is probably a name that they recognize. Releasing 7 full length albums, and 6 EP’s since 2004, John Allred has worked hard to keep his art new, relevant, and ever present. He has been rewarded for his hard work and talent, touring with acts such as Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Ben Folds, and Blink 182 to name a few. Allred has also independently sold over 100,000 records.
His latest work is the concept album, Seasons. Recorded every weekend throughout the course of a year, the idea was to do a twelve song album with each song, from beginning to end, representing a month of the year. When I first heard about this idea, I imagined it would be something along the lines of a folksy version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Instead I was met with a much more intimate work.
As Allred himself put it on his website, “I was writing and recording songs more like journal entries. Capturing moments and then building on them.” This understanding of the album was the key to properly navigating my way through it. During my first listen I found myself trying to find the essence of May on the fifth track, and the same with each corresponding month and track combination. However, I soon realized that the fifth track wasn’t about what May is like for everyone. It was about Allred’s May.
This idea of journaling through music has led Allred to create some really honest songs. This is easily seen in songs like “After Winter” – Allred’s February. He sings, “You see, I can’t live without you / Oh, I tried once to part / And these seasons keep changing / But they’ll never change my heart.” Indeed, “After Winter” is one my favorites on the album. Yes, it is simple – just acoustic guitar and Allred’s beautifully warm voice – but it is one of the most relatable. Though the content isn’t necessarily the happiest, the delivery feels a little playful. Very fitting for February: the month of love for some, the month of heartbreak and longing for others.
The June track, “Cover You,” delivers what are probably my favorite lyrics of the entire album. I love the chorus because it feels like dozens of conversations I’ve had:
‘Cause it when it rains, it pours (let me cover you) I’ll be your shelter from the storm (let me cover you) When the world outside shuts you out, I’ll be your open door, let me cover you.
The way that the lead and backup vocals play off of each other in the chorus makes the backup vocals sound like an inner dialogue Allred is having with himself, while speaking with the inspiration for the song. It isn’t until the end of the chorus when he actually says it out loud – “Let me cover you!” I like the idea of a pleading love song that isn’t pleading for love to be reciprocated, but instead for love to be accepted.
The reason I am a sucker for a good concept album is because they are usually meant to be consumed in their entirety. Yes, generally every song should be able to stand on its own, but in a concept album every song should relate and transition into the next. Albums like First Days of Spring by Noah and The Whale or We Don’t Have Each Other by Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties are perfect examples of this (Seriously, go listen to those albums).
My biggest critique of Seasons is that it is not an album that I enjoyed listening to for the entire 43 minutes. A lot of the songs are very similar in nature and content, and though individual songs such as ¨A Hallelujah” are great and powerful on their own, I find myself dozing off halfway through the album (literally – it happened during my first listen). This is not due to bad songwriting. In fact, I think it is a testimony of how comfortable the songs feel even the first time, and how soothing Allred’s voice really is. However, I think that because the album was written and recorded over such a long period of time and is so deeply personal to Allred, it makes it difficult to follow along in a linear fashion.
Admittedly, I was expecting something different when first listening, and I know that unmet expectations are the cause for discontentment – so it is hard for me to really be harsh here. Truthfully, this was a collection of twelve great songs, and had I listened to them all individually instead of trying to experience them all as a whole, I would have thoroughly enjoyed them. At least six of these songs will make it onto my “chill” playlist, but I don’t see myself blocking out 43 minutes to listen to Seasons again as a whole.