Label Pink | 2016
One for Sorrow, Two for Joy is Brightly’s third LP, but the first to be nearly entirely written by London-based Australian Charlie Gleason after the departure of his two bandmates. It’s an intensely personal concept record that deals with some pretty heavy stuff, but unfortunately it just isn’t that interesting musically. Part of the issue is the shift away from Brightly’s previous folk vibes towards a more electronic tone. Repetitive drum beats and odd looping samples don’t sit well with Gleason’s broad Australian-accented vocals, and twelve songs using the same combination become boring pretty quickly.
The tracks that bookend the album, ‘Atoms (Prologue)’ and ‘Plans (Epilogue)’, are more instrumental than the rest of the album, and create a sense that some sort of journey has occurred throughout. I’m still not entirely sure what that journey is though, as Gleason’s lyrics are hard to follow and not very memorable at points. Even after listening through the album a few times, the main lyrics that stick with me are the somewhat out of place lines from ‘Rugby’, where Gleason sings about his sex life – “I’ve got cum on my jeans but I swear I believe in true love”. It’s one of the only songs where he sounds genuinely passionate about the story he is telling, and I found myself somewhat drawn into the track purely because it stood out from the rest.
It’s a real shame that Gleason hasn’t managed to find the right balance on this album, because the story he is trying to tell is an important one. ‘Bury Us in Fruit Jars’ is based on the 1973 arson attack on a New Orleans gay bar, which until recently was the deadliest attack on LGBT people in the U.S. It’s a surprisingly upbeat but haunting song that Gleason says is about “identifying these men and their struggles, their loss”. ‘Bury Us in Fruit Jars’ reflects the overall tone of the album – at its heart it is a very sad recollection of queer experiences.
Title track ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’ is one of the only tracks that breaks away from this theme. It deals with the death of Gleason’s friend at the first Golden Plains festival. “It’s taken me close to ten years to get it right,” he told Tone Deaf recently. It’s clear that every song on this album deals with issues that are very close to Gleason’s heart, and it’s admirable for him to put everything on the table. Personal records like One for Sorrow, Two for Joy are often polarising, and in this case I didn’t really like it at all. But that doesn’t mean that other people won’t connect to Gleason’s music; this is really an album that you have to listen to and judge for yourself.