Jared Bartman’s ‘Garden Gate’ is a soothing pop hybrid

It’s convenient to describe a new artist to someone in terms of apt genre descriptors or similar artists, but someone like Jared Bartman seems to defy such a classification. Bartman’s own website describes him as melding “indie, American folk, Eastern European, and afro-Cuban [music] with classical arrangements”—a veritable melting pot of influences. So I’ll spare Bartman the insult that it would be to say “he sounds like Band X on Album Y doing Genre Z” because you can learn a lot more from just listening to the music.

Bartman’s latest track, “Garden Gate,” is the first single off of his upcoming album “Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows.” The aforementioned afro-Cuban influence is heard in the percussion beneath the gentle guitar and strings. The presence of strings is always a potentially scary prospect for the average listener, but the arrangements here are always subtle and tasteful and nowhere near the bombast of, say, The Last Shadow Puppets (which for the record, I also really enjoy). So while I object to any orchestraphobia on principle, I also would say that even the most phobic listener will be able to appreciate Bartman’s compositions as seated firmly in pop tradition.

I’ll admit that what caught my eye and got me to listen to “Garden Gate” was a comparison to Dave Longstreth (of Dirty Projectors)—a comparison which, as I mentioned above, would only end up underselling the uniqueness of Bartman’s sound. There are certainly Dirty Projectors songs that come to mind in hearing “Garden Gate” (one, or another), but I think the charm here is not the similarity to but the deviation from Longstreth’s sound. Where Longstreth often seems to exhibit a fear of creating something too accessible, a compulsion to complicate things and experiment, Bartman is content to keep it simple. That’s not to say that Bartman isn’t experimenting—the instrumentation, rhythm, and subtle omnipresent vocal harmony are all based in an experimental approach to recording and composition. Rather, Bartman refuses to let his deviations from the pop-norm overpower the music.

There’s a place for both of these styles (nota bene: I’m a huge Dirty Projectors junkie), but Bartman can be refreshing when you’ve had enough of guitar noodlery or lofty conceptual pieces. Or, put most simply and perhaps too simply, Bartman seems to find the delicate balance between experimentation and the inherent accessibility of pop. To say the least, I’m excited to hear the rest of the album.

Stream “Garden Gate” below and be sure to look for “Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows” on November 19th.

[Image: Crash Avenue]