Joel Bradford is the solo project – The Auspicious End, who handles all songwriting, recording, synthesizing, production, editing, marketing, and design of his musical creations. In 2007, The Auspicious End, released his first album, “Airfare”, and then followed that up with “Shalimar” in 2009, and in that same year he dropped the album, “Enter the Vandals”. After this highly prolific stint where The Auspicious End, experimented with darker sets and concept albums, he took a 6-year hiatus and is now back with a brand new sound and album, entitled, “Return To Form”.
The Auspicious End has refined his sound, cleaned up what needed to be cleaned up, and has come out sounding better than ever. Now I know some people hate it when this happens because they feel that the artists are sacrificing their sound for commercial success. Not at all the case here; accessibility is not always an indication of mediocrity. On the contrary, there aren’t many bands around today who you can rely on to consistently release quality albums; especially music that get better and easier to understand with each new release!
“Return To Form”, from start to finish, feels like a complete and cohesive album with no songs (except maybe one) sounding out of place or forced. It is a perfect harmony of progression and stability (if that makes any sense). It is very clear to me that The Auspicious End was influenced by his surroundings and relationships being woven together and it resulted in a more peaceful (compared to his previous releases) yet energetic album. The key to the album’s sprightly cohesiveness are to be found in standouts like: “Hollywood”, “Start Over”, “Through Sunrise”, “Cobwebs”, “Minute to Breathe” and “Lost & Found”.
This album is definitely not a return to The Auspicious End’s roots as much as perfecting the sound he started with “Airfare”. This is an ambitious and bold album that shows a project still progressing and trying new things after nearly a decade. The rich texture of the piano and colorfully vibrant synth sounds is what brought me to the table, but the strength of the songs and simple feelings with which they are imbued is what made me stay.
“Return To Form” is “cleaner” than past The Auspicious End albums, making it immediately enjoyable to listen to. The individual tracks help to make this album by staying…individual. On many solid albums the songs blend together to keep the album alive. In the process however, those album tracks strip their own individual identity. This phenomenon does not plague “Return To Form”. Each track has its own unique flavor, but it still drives the whole album as a cohesive unit.
If I had to find one small blemish, in an otherwise full-star album, it would be the inclusion of the Burt Bacharach track “Close To You”. I doubt that The Auspicious End version adds anything new to the already legendary versions of this song or to the album itself. I suspect Joel Bradford has a soft spot for this track, which would justify its inclusion on the “Return To Form” album.
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