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Review: Blair Kelly – Don't Change Your Plans


Don't Change Your Plans cover
Scottish born Blair Kelly is the first new artist of 2015 that I’ve had a chance to sit down and listen to, with his album ‘Don’t Change Your Plans’. His music came by recommendation of a friend who happens to know Blair and that felt somewhat awkward to start things off with – sure, I totally feel comfortable reviewing something for a friend of a friend. The only way I could be more anxious about it is if Blair turned out to be some sort of long distant forgotten cousin from two towns over – I checked, he’s not!Blair Kelly
That, however didn’t stop me from feeling a connection to his music and by proxy to Blair, earmarking his album as an “an exploration of love, misery, mental illness and queer heartbreak.” We’ve all been there at some point!
The album opens up with ‘Cherry Blossoms’, the song feels a little lot out of place straight away, particularly once you’ve given the whole album a listen. It’s only once you’ve come full circle and listen a second time (trust me you’re going to do that) do you realize that the ethereal tones of the track act as a sort of ghostly narrator. It’s quickly followed by ‘Don’t Change Your Plans’ and it’s here where we are given the chance to first experience the emotional power and range in Kelly’s voice.
The album’s pacing is jarred with each track, as if each song is a raw nerve, a story spilled out over few glasses wine with friends around to listen and empathize, only for it to be interrupted with an outburst or memory. This succeeds in humanizing the music to all of us in one shape or another, whether it’s an unrequited love or a turbulent end.

This is an exceptionally personal album as Blair spills his heart into the lyrics of every song, from beginning to finish this has been crafted by Kelly. At times the music, the vocals are overpowered by the instrumentation, in particular ‘Bent’ drips of Dresden Dolls influence but Blair’s voice is lost somewhere between the heavy piano strokes. Considering this a self-produced piece of work, it can be forgiven and in some ways it adds to the charm of the whole album.
America is a central theme to the album, tracks like ‘Americ**t’ and ‘Illinois to New Orleans’ conjure dark memories, the pain caused by association as Blair spills his heart out, in particular ‘Americ**t’. There is an anger and resentment that can be felt in the rhythm, self-pity, doubt and hope in his voice that betray the vicious lyrics. It’s a raw experience and as the track builds to a climax you can almost hear the singers voice overflow and while it’s easy to play this off as an act for the album, there is something a more to it all – we’ve all been there, we’ve all experienced this at some moment in our own lives.
There are two gems on the album, ‘Zsazs’ which any Batman fan can geek out over for a moment – a dark homage to a serial killer, a wannabe victim pleading his love to a killer, if only he’d turn his instinct to kill on him and end his pain (the killer seems to prefer blades too!) which is caused by the unrequited love he has for the killer in the first place. It’s perhaps the lowest point of the album, the lowest point the singer sank to while dealing with his own pain, it’s followed by ‘Illinois to New Orleans’ which acts as a quick fix, an attempt to get on and move passed it all but to find yourself caught in another downward spiral.

‘Poison Ivy’ is the fastest track on the album, it’s that sort of panic you feel when you first realize that the break is for real, it’s set the roots and it’s not going to change or go away no matter how much you try to tear it out. It’s as much about the pain twisting it’s way inside as it is about the anger that festers and poisons those positive memories and feelings – also the Batman villain reference can’t go unmentioned either! The album concludes with ‘Come Home‘,a lonely piece that while sharing a similar tone to ‘Cherry Blossoms‘, is ultimately darker and fits more comfortably into the rest of the album. It’s that moment when all has been  said shouted screamed and done and you are still missing that person, that source and reason for all of the pain – if it hurts that much then it must have meant something and it still could.
Listening to ‘Don’t Change Your Plans’ I felt like I’d found a soundtrack or at the very least a mix-tape to a chapter in my own life – the kind of collection that marks a painful loss, a broken friendship, a love ended too early. Blair isn’t just writing about heartache, he’s pouring his own onto music sheets, anger, despair, love and joy are all there, it’s mixed up and confusing. The album is an emotional and worthwhile experience.

Human, raw, beautiful, Kelly captures heartache poignantly. 8/10