Brice Randall Bickford

by Brice Randall Bickford

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JB. I'm real glad BRB is still making songs, but I might prefer The Strugglers a bit more. Still, a lovely record.
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about

It’s been a decade since Brice Randall Bickford began performing under the name “The Strugglers”. In this time, he has released five albums, toured the world, and earned a reputation as a master of subtle, narrative songwriting. Bickford's dense, poetic lyrics imbue his compositions with an enduring vitality, rewarding the listener with additional layers of meaning upon each successive listen. Now 32, he has cast off “The Strugglers” moniker and recorded his most focused and nuanced full length to date. Collaborating closely with acclaimed producer Scott Solter (The Mountain Goats, Spoon, John Vanderslice), Bickford created a lush and detailed sonic landscape for his painstakingly crafted lines to inhabit. The bare-bones Americana sound of The Strugglers is traded for the crisp, studio driven production style of late 70’s pop-folk, heightening the emotion and coloring the mood of each composition.

One might expect the transition to “solo artist” to find Bickford turning further inward, pursuing more confessional writing. While he now acknowledges his project as the work of a solitary songwriter, Bickford has instead chosen to broaden the focus, examining the external world and the thoughts and experiences of characters other than himself—particularly women. But these are not relationship songs. Rather they are portraits of female personae on a direct, post-romantic level. The arrangement of the compositions also represent Bickford's most outward and collaborative process yet, with band members and Solter given free reign to help build a world for each song. Members of St. Vincent, Megafaun and Mount Moriah also guest.

credits

released June 14, 2011

Produced by Scott Solter

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Track Name: Kindling
Well I used to have something in me
That needed only to be put out
I was young and lit
There was no end to what I was
Told to take in
Cold
In sick bedclothes and the winter sun
I woke up once
A handful of eras had passed
As time obliged with speed
Extinguishing

All my grand assumptions about
The kind of man I should be
The kind of man I should be by now

Out on the back deck steps
I sat with my narrowness
Chimney smoke in the air
A memory of Kate one Halloween
With her fake fangs out
Baiting rich undergraduates
I loved to laugh at disorder
Until I owned my voice
It was hard enough to not forget

Every year seeing clearer
Derailed my dream
Of saying something new
Eventually
All of my actions have struck me:
They were not much
They were not much more than me
Kindling
Track Name: Working Woman/Lazy Demons
At the end of the night
Still listing by the light of a screen
You are cursoring
Through the week
You work at your capacity

To take on more than you want
From the civil service
You make a living on
Never giving to yourself a bit
Of space in your own narrative

This is always how I find you
Long dark hair pulled back
In your bedroom shoes
And I can see how lazy I become
When you’re focusing your strength
On nothing but how much
You get done

You summon my lazy demons
All my demons
With your endless list
And I have to look at them
And I remember every woman I have loved
Used to work like this
Track Name: Danville
She led me through her family property
We had blankets over the damp
Earth and leaves and protection
The simplest searching
In that slender window when it was true
From where I was looking I was new

She gave me a first
Trying to resemble what I thought
I wanted
As we lay to look through
A treetop with blue sky beyond it
Looking through branches
And I could find nothing added or subtracted

Like any kid in how I was molded
So easy by the blind
Worship of authenticity
I soured the moment
She started to seem unconvincing
As my home
One day she could only repeat things
I was missing

But she gave me a first
Trying to resemble what I thought
I wanted
And I left to look through
A city skyline and beyond it
Looking through branches
Until I could find nothing added or subtracted
Track Name: Clay Divorcee
He left
Almost everything of his
To make it easier
On the boy
And your nerves that he held
Against you for so long
Seemed to burst out
And fill the house
With a new unease
You could not trust a child
Of fourteen
With a key
Once you held the power
To let him in
On the fact of the other women
All the news he didn't need you
To give him

Living on
Your own was so completely unknown
You showed in swindlers
To the ancient den with all its gold
Curtains yellowing
Helpless on the couch
A paunchy younger man by your side
The boy stuck in his bed
You whispered into every night
And then one day
Your ex-husband called
To say you made the last decision
For him and for once
All you could do was declare
Yes
You will never forget
You are not the sole author
Of your affairs
Track Name: Into Our Covers
Worrying for your parents as they leave
You never shed their old world
Sanctity
You tell me how you’ve been
Carrying on all the upkeep
In being wed to me
I brush aside the sudden
Awareness of who’s in the passenger seat

When I first met you I was coming down
With something
You took me in, nurse for a time
Dusk eyed
And you were never as strong again

Now nothing I say gives you consolation
When your voice breaks down
There is no more painful sound
And I guess it’s true
Fuck all that I do
Can show you were what I thought about

So we fold
Into our covers
And the dark beside one another
To talk until we agree
We don’t see anything
Approaching

We are constantly overturning sides
I watch us wind
Up at the same place every time

Folding
Into our covers
And the dark beside one another
To talk until we agree
We don’t see anything approaching
Clarity
Track Name: Songstress
Sailing back
Home over the wet roads
I keep my eyes on the current
It has a tough approach
I never learn

The songstress is just
Working to advance her means
None of us can say we’re not
Looking for another way
To be seen

Driving and listening to her
Explain how she has always wanted
To be known
I only want to take her home and take off
Her clothes

Because when you were
The one thing that I was
Counting on too much
You said if I left I would come back
Doubtless
To my old habits
Nodding through the words
Of another lackluster
Songstress
Track Name: Every Time They Tagged You
Alexandra, when you were about
To give up
Becoming a nurse
To yet another man

And you saw it was singing
Was your calling
Did your figure ever get
Out of the way
Of the power you held in
Your throat

With English pallor, ivory dress
Watching an audience
Wait and medicate
You walked out into the gels

Giving away only some
Of what you were about
Because every time they tagged you
You knew you were out
Of overtures now

You lay at the bottom of the stairs
With glass in your hair
Drink in your clothes
With a daughter six months old
Relieved of thoughts
That you had never caught on
To the answer
To the masses
To rails you leaned upon

You would wait to be found
And this was your victory
Sleeping until your husband turned
Off the breathing machine
Track Name: Up Against the Hem
The careless limb
Of some kid
Dancing the way they did
Back then
Caught her as she turned
To the song
Seventeen and her blood
Was all she saw

That could not be still
Remade
The sound of her name
While the room was running
Down her face
She walked out on her own
Driving home
A broken nose

Kids in their cars
Driving around
In circles checking out
The one place in town
She hung on
The outskirts and thought too much
Of her view
Of everything coming down
Like one set free
On bail

When she got to her house
And could still feel the room
Full of eyes
Robbing her
Of her outsider’s insight
And life was waiting
And the drag of being this age
Was even up against the hem
You were still a cliché

No matter what came out of your mouth
Track Name: On the Caesura of Paying Attention
You can never let up
Paying attention
If you expect to go on feeling

So you could not be any less
Surprised how poorly
You recall the way back

And forth
You used to swing
Too proud to settle on anything

So you always fell
For the hardest working woman you knew
Thinking somehow she could steady you

Yes it was a burden to have to live
So figurative
Shifting the weight of your body
From that lover to this

With the feeling that you missed
You can never catch yourself
Up anyhow

Without paying
Attention to the way you are not
You are not staggering now