I have a soft spot for young indie DIY musicians who put themselves out there, trying to get their songs heard, and it’s especially heartening when they’re talented. Such is the case with Liam B. Smith, a 20-year-old guitarist and songwriter from Loudoun County, Virginia. He released his debut EP Confessions in February 2017, and I’m glad he reached out to me for a review, because it’s excellent. Not only is the music terrific and lyrics compelling, the production is first-rate.
In the creation of his hard-hitting sound for the EP, Liam drew inspiration from Nirvana, Foo Fighters, The Struts, Goo Goo Dolls, Jack White, and “(above all) ONE OK ROCK.” On his website, he explains the meaning behind Confessions and how it represents his own conflicted feelings about making music:
“In this EP, I lean away from all of the pop-rock, modern influenced sounds I love and into my punk-ish and Nirvana-esque vibe. Confessions is both insecure and extremely audacious. It confesses my deep self-doubts about my life and talents (NOMANSWAR, Drift) and also confesses my elitist scorn for modern music culture (Crowdfunding). The songs are those of a semi-depressed, pessimistic artist. The EP is not meant to leave anyone feeling warm and fuzzy, but it is meant to hint at all of the greater things which (God willing) are yet to come.“
Liam wrote the songs, performed and recorded them, and produced the EP all by himself. His lyrics are pretty serious for such a young guy, as he addresses head-on the self-doubt and his feelings about the music industry that he described above. His strong guitar-playing skills are showcased on every track, and he has a fine voice that crackles with just the right amount of vulnerable intensity. But not least of all is his knack for arranging and producing his songs so that they sound every bit as tight and professional as a lot of music put out by seasoned artists working with big-name producers.
The first track “NOMANSWAR” starts off with slow electric guitar riff overlain by strummed acoustic guitar, as Liam mournfully sings “We had it all but we wanted more. Now we’re fighting nomanswar.” At about one minute, the pace quickens with aggressive hand claps and percussion setting the rapid beat, accompanied by robust electric guitar. Liam unleashes some blazing guitar riffs as he repeatedly laments “I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
“Drift” is a great hard rock track loaded with shredded and distorted guitars, and lots of punchy drums. Liam sings about just throwing the towel: “Who knows when you’re coming or leaving? Who knows when you’re healing or bleeding? Who knows when you’re sick of the feeling? / Never coming home, never coming home. / I might just quit, check in and check out.” On “Crowdfunding” Liam employs furious guitar riffs to match the cynical lyrics he snarls: “And if you give me money, I’ll give you my soul. You can make me famous.”
If you purchase Confessions on Bandcamp, you’ll be surprised by a fourth hidden bonus track that suddenly appears one and a half minutes after “Crowdfunding” ends. Just goes to show that sometimes you gotta listen all the way to the end.