Nigel Barnes is the drummer of pop punk band Don Blake and has gone solo to release his album The Clearing, via Bandcamp, earlier this year. He wrote, performed, recorded, and mixed the entire album himself, apart from one cover of Regina Spektor‘s ‘All The Rowboats’.
The Clearing is a D.I.Y 10-track album recorded in four months. Barnes has said the record is “emo-tinged-indie-punk-with-elements-of-pop.” There is a variety of slower and upbeat tunes with themes like nostalgia, mental health issues, and addiction, regrets, personal experiences with a bit of hope, too.
Track 1 ‘My Future Self’ is summery and very pop punk. It paints an image of looking in another direction in life and having no worries about what’s next because things will always turn out better than expected. It begins acoustically, then slowy adding the electric guitars and drums lifting the mood of the tune. It’s a memorable tune of pop power.
The title track is a conversation between the present and future Barnes. It details the negative thinking of expecting the worst in life with him singing, “You’re always dwelling on the past that’s been and gone, and you keep on looking to the things that might go wrong”. The melody of the vocals is enchanting. The lyrics really carry the song until the end with its great choruses.
The following tracks ‘Sun, Come Back’ and ‘No Stars’ really make the album a whole. It showcases Barnes’s full potential as a songwriter. In ‘Sun, Come Back’ he reassures himself as he optimistically singing, “You know that you’re not alone and this feeling will go.” ‘No Stars’ begins slow before rushing into the bluesy rock with a great replay chorus with a wonderful guitar riff. It deals with a different element of his personality; addiction. It’s a more personal track compared to the rest of the record. There’s a little stubbornness throughout the tune as well as a lot of personal growth and realizing life’s worth it in the end. The vocals are stripped back and you feel a lot of emotion. There is a balance of sorrow and hope with the recognition of positivity and knowledge that the good days are ahead. The stories in every song are quite sad but beautiful.
The last track on the record feels almost like a goodbye song, with his raw talent, showcased again with the great lyricism and instrumentation. It’s an excellent album not only on his songwriting ability and performance but on his producing part. Barnes has poured his heart into The Clearing which as a whole brings the listener on a journey. There’s never a moment of boredom. It’s a refreshing record. Each song is beautifully written. It deserves a few listens.
Words by Danielle Holian