Unquestionably, one of the most most ingenious and bold records of 2021 is Wendy Eisenberg’s peerless Bent Ring.
Over the last decade, Eisenberg proved themselves to be one of today’s most innovative guitarists, so it’s endlessly fascinating to hear them take up the challenge to compose an entire album on a completely different instrument—a tenor banjo, in this case.
Eisenberg attacks their instrument with gusto, picking and strumming it in abstract jazzy patterns, often hitting notes that feel just slightly off in an extremely beautiful way. It sounds as though Eisenberg and percussionist Michael Cormier are painting from an entirely unexplored palette of sounds, which makes each song completely unpredictable and vastly exciting.
Take for instance the snappy “Analogies,” which features stacks of harmonious vocals and squiggly banjo riffs that zip past like lightning while Cormier does an impressive job at keeping the tricky rhythm down with his ricochet drumming. It’s a daringly avant-garde jazz piece with proggy folk leanings, but it’s also deeply accessible and a total joy for the ears.
With a voice that is somewhere between that of Emily Brodsky and Linda Perhacs’, Eisenberg sings throughout the album about the exhausting nature of being an artist in the industry while still trying to maintain healthy and meaningful relationships with others. The lyrics are personal and honest, with a sting of self-deprecating humor, like on the meta “Little Love Songs,” which is about the guitarist being embarrassed about writing…little love songs (despite hating the genre). This chiding sense of self-awareness only makes the record all the more real and all the more appealing.
For an undeniably one of a kind listen, pick up Bent Ring from Dear Life Records tomorrow during Bandcamp Friday.