Brad Byrd's debut album, The Ever Changing Picture, is the effort of an earnest young singer/songwriter who, by the sound of it, loves 1980s alternative rock and has been abetted in his affection by producer Evan Frankfort (the Wallflowers, the Jayhawks). A dense mixture of strummed acoustic and ringing electric guitars fills the sound picture, supporting Byrd's gruff, becalmed voice, which is equal parts Michael Stipe and Eddie Vedder, resulting in a sound that often recalls early R.E.M. ("Swear You're Out There," for example, could be an outtake from Murmur.) Because Byrd is a singer/songwriter, however, the arrangements never rock out so hard that they overwhelm the lyrics (not that he is above finding a hook and repeating it half a dozen times). And those lyrics reveal a writer largely concerned with himself and whether or not he's going to make it. Occasionally, there is an external subject to a song, such as "Never Came Back," in which the singer is separated from his girlfriend (she's in New York; he's in Los Angeles) and wonders what she would do "if I never came back." One suspects that she'd manage, if only because her self-centered soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend seems more interested in his career than in her. "You're Good," the album's best song and potential hit, reassures an uncertain friend that he or she is talented, even if the hook is "Who do you think you're foolin'?" When he isn't commiserating with friends or lovers, however, Byrd doesn't have much to say beyond pondering his potential future as a rock star. At album's end, in the title track, he is still undecided: "Do I stay in New York City/Should I move to L.A.?" (He moved, of course.) That those are the two possibilities he considers tells us something; he certainly isn't going to move to Dayton, OH (or even Chicago), because that's not where music industry showcases are held. The Ever Changing Picture demonstrates that Brad Byrd is talented. Maybe on subsequent albums he'll find something beyond his own ambition (and his doubts about that talent) to write about.
The Ever Changing Picture Review
by William Ruhlmann