As music listeners, we spend much of our time focusing on the lead man. Between vocals and persona, it’s obvious why the frontman takes up most of our attention. But in the shadows lies the rest of the band, strumming away earnestly. While many band members are quite happy to continue playing away in the background, some are so musically talented that it would be a crime to keep them in the back. Enter: Kyle Forester.
For over 15 years, Kyle Forester has lent his musical prowess to bands like the Ladybug Transistor and Crystal Stilts. Before his debut album, released in 2016, he was a recognized musical force without much praise from listeners. Music fans now acknowledge his talent, and with it comes his sophomore album Hearts In Gardens. It is a mix of power pop and soft rock, all covered in a’ 70s-inspired hue. He combines piano, synths, and the occasional horn section to break up his guitar riff songs.
“Know What You’re Doing” is a well-arranged track that opens the album. With its catchy melody, it drags you right into the record. As a seasoned guitarist, it comes as no surprise that Forester opens the track with a plod-along guitar melody, but what is really surprising is his treatment of it. He overlays synth, to accompany the well-rooted guitar with a jingling synth that lifts the track from its roots and makes it float. And with Forester’s voice blending into the track, this song sets the perfect tone for the album.
Forester is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to music. And while many others may talk about his songwriting and guitar talents, very few talk about his voice. On first listen, it is easy to discount. But Hearts In Gardens uses his monotone voice to its full advantage. Instead of taking center stage, it weaves its way through the melody. “Lily” is a simple track, but Forester’s voice meshes with the strumming guitar and simple drum beat and creates a track that is deeply embedded in folk-rock without all the vocal drama.
“Turn of the Century,” placed bang center of the album, is another homage to folk-rock. Forester’s harmonies leave you wanting more, but he doesn’t stay in this realm for long. With the inclusion of subtle horn section, he broadens the folk-rock horizon, guiding his listeners up a musical mountain to watch the new century rise. It may sound like a simple track, but Forester’s musical experience and the treatment of the track make it one of the best on the album.
The ten tracks on this album are evidence of his experience and confidence. It is also subtle and understated, which is pretty unusual for a frontman. But in Forester’s case, it works to his advantage. Hearts In Gardens is measured, well-paced, and is perfected placed in the folk-rock landscape.