Props to beautifully broken, the first official album from Indianapolis and Brooklyn-based musician Jon Autry, for being the most aptly titled record in recent memory. Written, performed, produced, recorded, mixed and mastered almost entirely by Autry (the lone exception being Rob Guernsey's contribution on drums for "don't mean anything"), beautifully broken is the sound of an eviscerated soul taking stock of all the painful entries and bittersweet memories on his emotional ledger in the wake of a relationship gone awry. Autry's decision to stylize the album and song titles in all lowercase wasn't an accident; neither was his choice to use a zoomed-in photo of a busted, battered car with the bumper stripped off, as the cover art.
There's a single-minded catharsis that permeates every corner of Autry's songs. It's heavy-duty stuff and deeply potent for anybody who has had to endure a crippling break (i.e. almost everyone). It's also a melodic stunner.
Years in the making while under the radar, Autry has crafted a gem of a heartbreak record that achieves the rarest of feats: it conjures sadness and offers sublime results every step of the way. Risking potential calls of sacrilege, I'll say beautifully broken wallops me like the next album the late, great Elliott Smith never got the chance to make. I genuinely can't shake the similarities — meant with the highest form of praise. The comparisons are there for the taking with respect to the songs' subject matter. Autry's rapturous and intimate vocal deliveries are often multi-tracked and layered to serve up harmonies that echo what have always made Smith's songs so utterly gorgeous. That's coupled with Autry's willingness to work a versatile range of sounds into the mix. The synth, beats and production of "i got lost" summon a bit of "Blue Monday" with sharp Trent Reznor-like ears for massaging the near chaos into immersive rock. "i know" climbs towards the shoegaze heavens.
Autry's made a wise decision to keep the vocals at the forefront, while adorning the spaces with intermittent brawny guitar tones, staccato rhythms, buzzing synth lines and an abundance of breathy backing harmonies. beautifully broken is a record dripping with despair, but one that's also refreshing and intoxicating. The end result is a seriously beautiful Hoosier release that could easily pass for the lesser-known brother to Beck's recent (excellent) Morning Phase. And, like that album, it could become one of the most enduring statements you'll discover this year.
beautifully broken will be released June 24 via Usonian Records, Autry and wife/collaborator/fellow musician Laura K. Balke's own label. He'll celebrate with a show on Thursday at the Hi-Fi.