Royal Wood - The Burning Bright

Released March 18, 2014

By Charlie Dims


“I’d say this is the bravest I’ve ever been,” says Royal Wood when talking about his newest album The Burning Bright (Source). While Wood has always been brave in his quest for continual artistic and stylistic evolution, whether through creating albums with a full pop flavor or a full orchestrated sound, his latest The Burning Bright takes him into new territory as a songwriter. Love has been a consistent theme in his past work, but never has Wood been so open and vulnerable about the emotions that come with romance and relationships. Yet, though Wood recently ended his relationship with his longtime partner, do not confuse The Burning Bright as a straight breakup, I’m-so-sad-you’re-gone record. Love isn’t that simple, and neither is this record.

Take the track White Flag, for example. On one hand, the song has a sonically hard edge to it, as if setting up for a rock song. On the other hand, the lyrics are not seeped in anger, as the music might suggest, but rather call for a truce. “Open your heart, surrender, and enemies will be friends/You can find me right here/Raising up the white flag, waiting for the war to end.” And while other songwriters might use such a song to blame the other partner for all of the heartache, Wood acknowledges that both sides have participated in the destruction as he sings, “We were just small, we were building a wall/Between us was a rift, we were bound to fall.”

In other tracks, such as I Wish You Well, Wood is able to remove himself enough from the crash in order to see the beauty that came before, with lyrics like “I’ll miss your simple cotton dress/The feeling in my fingertips/The taste of you upon my lips” adding additional measures of tenderness and heartbreak to the mix.

Yet, if you think that this is a pity party, look again. Though Wood certainly has his moments of melancholy, as in the excellent track I’m Afraid, the album ends on a lighter note than might be expected. The Burning Bright is less about sitting in the broken ruins, but rather celebrating what was once there. As the final track Pretty One says, “We cannot be afraid/O death for no one waits/We’re here to testify/That love was in our eyes.”