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Franz Nicolay
Luck And Courage
Fistolo, Sabot, Team Science, Décor
www.franznicolay.com


Franz Nicolay is a pretty accomplished musician. He has played on songs with many bands, perhaps most notably being when he joined bar rockers The Hold Steady, before leaving the band citing creative differences. He seemed to indicate that his musical aspirations are something more artistic than what The Hold Steady wished to do, so he left and released a solo album titled Luck And Courage. It's an album that does have high aspirations. It seeks to be quirky, clever, poetic, and just unique in any way possible. That by itself is never a bad thing for an artist, since it's always better to try and be creative than to play it safe.

Well, does the album succeed? Kind of, a little bit, sometimes; it's clever and creative alright and it has some good lyrics, but as a whole it's pretty boring and forgettable. It doesn't help that the opening song, "Felix And Adelita", has no strong hook, music that just kind of meanders through the song, and lyrics that tell a story but don't really feel like they were meant to be a song. Some of the lines are interesting, but as a whole the song is forgettable, which will turn off many listeners before the album has even started. It's a running problem throughout the album. The lyrics that Nicolay has written feel like poetry and stories. However, that doesn't mean they work well in songs. A poem can get away with meandering and not having a strong hook, because poetry is something different than a lyric. A lyric is designed to be sung and needs to have enough of a hook to make the listener remember it. Much of the album succumbs to the problem, with most of the songs having lyrics that are very poetic, but not terribly memorable.

That's not to say that every song on the album is boring, because that wouldn't be true. "This Is Not A Pipe" is probably the best thing on the album since it does feel like an actual song and has a strong hook. It's abstract and the repetition of "I have not been unhappy my whole life" ties the verses together. It's a good example of a song that is artistic and unique without sacrificing the things that make a great song memorable. "Have Mercy" is also a strong number with a darker tone to it. The lyrics are a haunting plea for deliverance from the singer's own desires, which are hurting him.

In the end, this isn't a bad album and it's worth listening to just because it is creative. My complaint is that after listening to the album over and over again, I struggled to remember what any of the songs sounded like. If the lyrics were tightened up and edited to be more like songs and less like abstract stories, the album would have been that much more memorable and interesting. But based on the strength of the lyrics and music, I have to say that this is a well done album that will likely not disappoint fans.

Rating: 6/10

-Brenden Kirch

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