Kai Rutherford – Running Out Of Time – Album Review
…the journey continues…
The second of two albums he released in 2016, Kai Rutherford lived-out the adage of ‘it takes a lifetime to write your first album and you get two weeks to write your second’ with his follow-up set of tunes on Running Out Of Time representing where he’s at musically today as opposed to where he’s been through the tunes of his past that we just reviewed from his earlier release, Outsider. Alright…I mean…chances are he didn’t just take two weeks to write this second solo record…but you get what I’m saying – Kai moved right from the past and on into the future after releasing his back-catalog to free himself to write a whole new set of songs for Running Out Of Time.
“Wake Me When It’s Over” has Rutherford immediately sounding even more clear, rich and full than we heard on any one tune from Outsider…by comparison you can hear improved production, bold enthusiasm and the highly committed performances he’s known to put into his recordings. I loved the gentle nature of “Wake Me When It’s Over” and the gentle rhythms of the acoustic-guitars; Kai’s music takes on a more modern-day folk/indie approach to the sound of the beginning here…almost like an Americana-twist on the Sparklehorse sound, like the Wallflowers had or close to what The Head And The Heart are doing now. In my opinion…the shaky sound of Rutherford’s vocal-tones add to the sincerity of what we hear and I appreciate him not spending time rounding out the uniqueness of his voice into the same sound everyone else has. He’s got a voice that has character…it’s genuine and I feel like you can hear that in these songs. Notably however – I really feel like you can hear the accessibility of the songwriting has also improved…”Wake Me When It’s Over” has a sweet charm and appeal that is bound to catch many off-guard…and before you know it, you’re lost in the swirl of the rich bass-tones and sparkling guitar notes that end the first tune stunningly.
And hey Kai – why don’t you just go ahead and try to follow that up with like, your most accessible rhythm & groove to-date will you? Oh…what’s that? You did? LISTEN to the way that “Borderline Burnout” pulls you in immediately! THAT my friends…is what real songwriting sounds like right there. Everything from the pace & tempo to the tones of the music & harmonies – Kai has gotten PERFECT on “Borderline Burnout” – it’s about the most inviting sound I can think of hearing from him so far, and he’s made plenty. The hooks in “Borderline Burnout” are purely smooth & natural…great musicianship, fantastic violin solo…extraordinarily-hypnotic groove that envelops you WHOLE…clever vocal parts like the harmonized parts around the four-minute mark…you name it and it WORKS on this slow surf-rock jam. Vocals sound right where they should be in tone & energy to match the hazy vibe of the music and themes in the lyrics…”Borderline Burnout” is a completely focused and highly-realized idea.
Rutherford goes on to seriously impress after what’s already been an amazing start to his new record. The melodies that he’s created on “Million Miles Away” are breathtaking…not even kidding – he’s latched onto about four or five completely strong hooks and blissfully combined them into this song. Truthfully, when it started…I honestly wasn’t sure about it! “Million Miles Away” felt a little too familiar through the verse at the beginning on that first experience…he’s not ripping it off by any means…just familiar in the sense that I felt like he might start heading back into more the rock-style & sounds we found in many of the songs on the Outsider record – and so far what we’ve heard on this new album has really sounded like new terrain for Kai…like the music he’s always been meant to make. And RIGHT as I was about to question the direction on “Million Miles Away” – he pulls out one of the strongest choruses I’ve heard this year…maybe ever. Over time & listening…I appreciated more what the verse brings to the song, it IS the narrative that drives the initial story and themes forward…but dear people, dear readers, dear friends – if it ISN’T the chorus of this song that makes “Million Miles Away” sparkle and shine in your memory, I’ll eat my hat. The harmonies are pure audio-gold, the melody is flawless…that is a spectacular piece of writing and realization that simply cannot be ignored – the chorus of “Million Miles Away” is absolutely musically-magnificent.
To get to where we’re going in life, we have to get past where we’ve been. Checking out Kai Rutherford’s earlier work in such proximity to hearing these new songs has made this entire experience a serious privilege to have been a part of as a listener. Kai knows as well as I do that he HAD to get out the songs on Outsider in order to truly gain some closure on the ideas and be able to free his mind to move on to make Running Out Of Time…and I strongly believe when you hear the difference between the then and the now of Kai’s career, you’ll find yourself agreeing with me in that he’s truly getting better and better. Here’s the best proof I can offer you and how I KNOW he’s on the right path…I just heard one of the strongest choruses I’ve ever heard float into my ears on “Million Miles Away” – SO STRONG that whatever song would come after should have fallen completely flat no matter how good it was…
…but “Kind Of Girl” is actually that damn good. As I stated in the first review on Kai’s music from Outsider – I’m a complete sucker for melody…but you know something? I’m starting to suspect that Kai Rutherford gets that too. “Kind Of Girl” is another time-stopping moment…it borrows a little from a Beatles melody but finds its way into a stunning combination of indie-pop/50’s rhythm that could silence a stadium in effort to listen to every single moment. The sweetness in the lyrics and the music combined…the writing…it’s ALL here with a performance that matches its every emotional intention. Hitting the mark completely yet again with another beautifully sincere performance on the vocals, Rutherford really can’t seem to lose on Running Out Of Time.
And hey – speaking of “Running Out Of Time” – here it is, the centerpiece of the second record and title-tune, right here, right now! I loved a lot of the accenting guitar-parts on this track…it’s another great song overall…and it was around this point that I expected nothing less from Kai anyhow when it came to this new album. The title-track ends up heading down the paths that The Band, Tom Petty & Blue Rodeo has blazed for Kai to follow…and in that ever-enveloping style that catches you right in the swirl of the rhythm, melody and harmonies, there’s again a sweetness that pulls you into what Kai’s got going-on on “Running Out Of Time.” Highlight solo in the middle of this tune for sure, complete with harmonics – he’s done justice to his title-cut and really nailed down an adventure of a song into one heck of an accessible journey you’ll want to take on.
Even on “Thank You For Not Leaving Me” – I was completely won over by Rutherford’s insightfully committed performance. This is definitely a track that leans hard towards the light & theatrical-side of music…and normally, that’s where I’m out…that’s where you’ll find me rebelling quickly and pulling out all my albums from The Cure and hide myself under a raincloud – BUT…I find charisma & commitment audibly appealing in any scenario; and I can’t deny that “Thank You For Not Leaving Me” is about as charming as it gets. Once again putting an irresistibly killer chorus on display – the evolution of Rutherford’s music between records is absolutely extraordinary; I liked what he was doing then, but I LOVE what he’s doing now. The combination of drums and piano make for a playful atmosphere, but still a focused one…something along the lines of like…a Del Amitri tune…that kind of pop-smarts here.
In almost every way I can imagine and think of, I feel like Kai Rutherford has really found his voice, style and approach even more-so on this follow-up record. I think there’s probably an argument that could be made that the songs are less ‘rock’ orientated than the preceding record – but I really don’t think there’s a trade to be made here; both records possess great ideas – but Running Out Of Time really sounds like Kai is embracing his moment like never before from beginning to end. Keeping his storytelling & songwriting sharp, he delivers solid lyricism, nostalgia, emotion, memories and melody on “You Were You” – another song that has a strong invitational pull to its smooth sound and highly accessible rhythm to the music & vocal-flow.
On the first listen through this record, I wasn’t entirely sure of the beginning of “Where To Go From Here” as it started – but I’ve learned long ago to not doubt Kai’s instincts when it comes to where to take a song next. Much the same as my experience with “Million Miles Away” earlier, I felt like Kai really found his moment in the chorus…I like the performance he puts into his vocals on this piano-led tune – that extra rasp & slight-growl in his tone reflects the yearning of the question of “Where To Go From Here” and keeps the intentions of the writing at their most honest and vulnerable. Letting us in just a bit further than he ever has so far…there’s a real sense of importance in the atmosphere of “Where To Go From Here” – like it’s a question he’s shouting out to the universe and expecting an answer in return. For modern-day references…you’re looking at bands like The Fray or Snow Patrol…or artists like Damien Rice or David Gray…”Where To Go From Here” has that similarly powerful emotion building throughout its graceful string-laden movements. Very strong tune on Running Out Of Time…it sounds & feels like a moment in time that you’ll never forget and wherever you hear this song for the first time, it’ll bond to that experience & memory forever.
Did he take it all one-step too far with “Stench Of Deceit” at the end of the record? YES – completely! Where’s my final slow-jam?!! By now, he knew I’d say that …between two back-to-back reviews, at this point it’s no secret as to what I like best about Kai’s music – it’s his mastery of melody! That being said…I really can’t deny that he’s ended Running Out Of Time on a seriously fun & riotous note with the dramatic and theatrically-jazzy performance he’s put onto “Stench Of Deceit.” With a hint & nod towards beat-poetry and a more experimental & avant-garde approach – in all truth, Kai’s created quite an extraordinary and memorable ending to this new record; it might not be my typical style or even your own – but you can’t deny that Rutherford is right in the groove of this tune and really FEELIN’ this one! Trumpets blazing & saxophones letting it rip, piano, guitars, bass, drums…everything comes vibrantly alive amongst the poetic nature of the lyricism on this final track from Running Out Of Time in a remarkable finish that showcases yet ANOTHER dimension of Kai’s versatile sound.
I’ll close this off by saying this…it’s one thing to release back-to-back records – but it’s another thing entirely to do what Kai Rutherford has done in releasing two albums that highlight such a bold contrast between them. They say an artist’s best work should always be an artist’s CURRENT work…and personally I’ve always believed that…and I believe that people like Kai understand that too; that’s the precise kind of ambition and thought that pushes a musician, entertainer and performer to consistently bring their best to each and every moment & opportunity presented. Kai Rutherford absolutely made the most of his every moment on Running Out Of Time and impressively proved that his current work IS his best work…don’t let the title fool you – this guy has plenty left in the tank and a lot to offer the ears.
Find out more about Kai Rutherford through his official page at: http://www.rutherford.no/
Find his new record Running Out Of Time at CDBaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kairutherford and at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/no/album/running-out-of-time/id1180411187 OR if Spotify is more your jam, find Kai Rutherford here: https://play.spotify.com/album/0pD8mioNR7uO53RZs0Y1qL
And hey, why NOT support him at Facebook too! You’ve already come so far! Do that here: https://www.facebook.com/rutherford.no