Smooth Local 

Times are hard, and with the holidays forthcoming, they might get harder. These relaxing recordings may help.

This is for You by Community Girlfriend and Lennon Bramlett (2021)

click to enlarge This is for You by Community Girlfriend and Lennon Bramlett (2021)
  • This is for You by Community Girlfriend and Lennon Bramlett (2021)

Soft and experimental, This is for You combines electronics, strings, field recordings, and an ebb and flow of graceful vocals. The album drifts from moment to moment in mellow hues of quiet beauty, understanding of the world’s complexity but seeing through its veils to find something true.

Norman’s Lennon Bramlett, who releases electronic music under the moniker Bronte, tends to reserve his real name for his more personal and subdued projects, and here, he collaborates with fellow local musician Community Girlfriend, whose artistry melds well with his instincts. Together, they evolve into something new. Note that the experimentation here might be a bit too adventurous for some listeners, but others will find the journey a rare combination of peaceful and invigorating.

First of Its Kind by Barron Ryan (2021)

click to enlarge First of Its Kind by Barron Ryan (2021)
  • First of Its Kind by Barron Ryan (2021)

Tulsa composer and pianist extraordinaire Barron Ryan released recordings of his Sonata in B Flat Major and Suite Thing, both new works that blend contemporary and classical influences, on First of Its Kind earlier this year. The album is a strictly solo affair, which keeps the listening experience light even as Ryan explores the full range of the piano.

One can trace a sentimentality and melodic inclination similar to composers for the people like Gershwin. One can also hear major nods in Suite Thing to “Amazing Grace” (Movement III) and Caribbean steel drums (Movement IV), but make no mistake that Ryan’s take is an original one. His blend of influences especially meld on the sonata, which he titles “Magic City.” The bustling, upbeat landscape he composes through jazz and blues tones are just the thing to cast an urbanite’s cares away. There is great joy to be found in these notes.

Archive by Maddie Razook (2019)

click to enlarge Archive by Maddie Razook (2019)
  • Archive by Maddie Razook (2019)

Bearing one of the most dreamy and delicate voices of the Oklahoma City DIY scene, Maddie Razook is in her element on Archive. With atmospheric mixing and soft keyboard undercurrents, she croons in a spread of major and minor keys, striding the line between sunny outdoor haze and blanket fort reclusiveness. In either scenario, the unifying theme is solace. Even when she’s singing about apathy on “Golden One,” the listening experience is anything but callous and detached.

The terms “bedroom pop” and “dreampop” are common in indie circles, and aspects of it do apply to Razook’s sound, but Archive is more unique than that. It lives in that special realm between wakefulness and sleep. Maybe that’s why it’s so relaxing.

Aubrie & Lucas by Aubrie and Lucas Ross (2020)

click to enlarge Aubrie & Lucas by Aubrie and Lucas Ross (2020)
  • Aubrie & Lucas by Aubrie and Lucas Ross (2020)

Banjo isn’t everyone’s comfort food, but for those who find its unmistakable twang endearing, Aubrie & Lucas provides a charming collection of originals and covers that bring a sweet simplicity to a complex world.

Local celebrity Lucas Ross is best known musically for his humorous banjo songs, many of which are aimed at youngsters. On this album, however, he takes a modest and sincere turn alongside his wife, who does most of the singing here. The Rosses make lovely sounds together, and with little more than fiddle and hand percussion to round out the mix, the album never gets in its own way.

The two instrumental tracks, “I Love Aubrie” and “You Play Banjo Like a Frog,” are especially relaxing and happy. They feel at ease, much like the Rosses seem to be, and on Aubrie & Lucas, the comfort is contagious.

Divine Timing by Sarafina Byrd (2020)

click to enlarge Divine Timing by Sarafina Byrd (2020)
  • Divine Timing by Sarafina Byrd (2020)

Nothing touches the soul like, well, soul music. Sarafina Byrd’s pop/R&B stylings are full of it, and her songs on romance and empowerment serve to elevate through that powerful medium. Though still a newer artist, her five-track debut EP is one of the most consistently intoxicating releases of its kind from the OKC scene.

Midtempo arrangements and tasteful layers of harmony show the singer-songwriter and keyboardist in the best possible light, which is soft yet shimmering. If there’s tension at play in the lyrics of Byrd’s work, it’s in service of its ultimate message, which is freedom through independence. The relationship tension in “Anchor,” for example, is a pivot point that comes halfway through the tracklist’s arc, which gradually moves from infatuation with another person to celebration of oneself. It’s smart writing, and it serves as a feel-good reminder that everyone has potential within themselves if they can only unlock it.

Communication Board by Sun Deep (2021)

click to enlarge Communication Board by Sun Deep (2021)
  • Communication Board by Sun Deep (2021)

OKC producer and DJ Sun Deep created Communication Board in two days. As his wife slept in a hospital in the wake of major surgery, he channeled his energy into what would become a 7-track beat tape. It’s not as heavy as one might guess, however, as the nebulous sensation of a hospital stay naturally transforms the music into something loose and sprawling despite its emotional studiousness.

Communication Board isn’t about positivity and good vibes in the sun. Instead, it’s about finding comfort in the shadows and the sidelines. Its downtempo beats offer more hyperactive listeners something to hold onto while its noirish atmospherics offer the gothically inclined a place to unwind in its overcast lounge. Mostly, though, it’s chill, like a pair of shades on a cloudy day.

Mathewson, OK by Colourmusic (2020)

click to enlarge Mathewson, OK by Colourmusic (2020)
  • Mathewson, OK by Colourmusic (2020)

Colourmusic built a reputation on its high-voltage, atmospheric brand of freak rock in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but in recent years, the Stillwater-born legends have stepped away from the industry circuit to indulge in some of the least commercial work of their careers. It’s also some of their best work.

Colourmusic’s more experimental side projects include albums like Mathewson, OK. This is some of the best ambient music coming out of Oklahoma right now, and while the track “Location Three (35° 40’ 13.38_ NLongitude_97° 47’ 52.59_ W)” slips in some tension, Mathewson, OK is otherwise entirely made of soft stretches of gorgeous meditation. At just four tracks, the album clocks in at nearly an hour, but listeners may find that at these coordinates, time is relative.

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Evan Jarvicks

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