Soulful UK singer-songwriter Bruno Major’s sophomore effort is here after continuing to expand his fanbase exponentially with his old-school sound. To Let A Good Thing Die is a brief ten tracks of passionate, lovelorn vocal delivery and lyricism over an intentionally fuzzy and stripped back vintage sound palate. It often makes Major sound like he’s bringing the songwriting techniques of the old standards of the 40s and 50s to a modern audience. After all, he got his start as a jazz guitarist learning to play along to Sinatra and Miles Davis. While the majority of these tracks are the kind of stunning and overwhelmingly emotional odes to the beauty of romance that make it clear why Major is a rapidly rising star, his formula becomes incredibly evident once you near the end of even a short album like this one – I even found myself predicting the lyrical resolution of a couple of his extended metaphors. Still, Major’s voice is timeless and refreshing, and the musicality across this entire project as he pours his heart out to some abundantly lucky girl makes this one a highly worthwhile listen.
The opening track “Old Soul” already introduces just how much of a lyrical wizard Major can be at times – while he often captivates with the vivid specificity at which he writes, here he instead offers a bit of a clever lyrical flip and some wordplay. While Major is certainly an old soul, here he finds himself instead doing nothing but listening to the genre of music in order to rediscover himself after a breakup. In a way, To Let A Good Thing Die is structured like a concept album with a story, Major searching for love once again before triumphantly finding it and dedicating himself completely. The track is one of the most impressive examples of modernizing a classic sound on the project. It begins with the crackle of a record player and soft crooning before a driving drumbeat kicks in and Major arrives at a chorus melody that sounds like a record skipping as he discusses being surrounded by his own collection. The songs in the early goings of the album are the strongest, and Major hits us immediately after with the devastatingly bittersweet track “The Most Beautiful Thing,” co-written with another of our current outstanding songwriters in Billie Eilish’s brother FINNEAS. Tenderly singing a beautiful and simple melody over his strummed acoustics, Major stands in awe of the girl of his dreams – who unfortunately, he hasn’t met just yet. Weighing out all the different scenarios that might lead to the magical connection with heartwarming detail, the slide guitars in the background give this one a near-country flavour. Major’s songwriting certainly matches up with the genre’s emotional storytelling, reaching up to an aching falsetto in the chorus.
Alas, this evidently transcendent and transformative girl eventually shows up on the track “Nothing,” as Major continues to be cartoonishly and endearingly infatuated as she takes up all his time. An accidentally perfect track for a world that newly discourages the adventurous and social aspect of dating, Major instead prefers a quiet evening at home, getting distracted by his love’s beauty and losing in the middle of an intense video game duel and crying over The Notebook. One of the most lo-fi cuts here, Major winds through a repetitive melody that becomes equally as affecting due to the strength of the story behind it, his voice at a near-whisper that I’m sure is absolutely enthralling to many listeners as he speaks directly into their ear. The dates continue on the tracks “Regent’s Park” and “Old Fashioned,” as Major continues to be absolutely charming with his accent and over-the-top dedications, acknowledging that he’s “serenading like a fool” but not caring. “Regent’s Park” takes it one step further on tapping into a kind of nostalgia drive and longing for simpler times by heavily sampling a wistful piano theme from a Disney movie, 101 Dalmatians. Matching his vocal melody up to the classic theme, he rather brilliantly throwing a hip-hop beat on top of it as the couple of the year stroll through a park. “Old Fashioned,” similarly, sees Major bringing back chivalry as he dresses up in his “Sunday best” and walks her home to her front door.
It’s all satisfyingly thematically and sonically consistent, but not even Major can write an absolute knockout of a song 10 times out of 10 and some of the weaker tracks in the latter half begin to feel like we’re covering similar ground as the story stalls, the character Major plays not going through any new developments other than putting this girl miles above anything else in life. After you hear Major dub the subject of these tracks “the most beautiful girl in all of the world” or something along those lines on each track here, by the time we get to a track without as sticky of a melody like “Tapestry” and Major starts listing off a series of breathtaking natural sights, it’s pretty easy to see where he’s going and his dedications can cross over into eye-rolling territory. Sure enough, it would appear that the object of his affection is even more breathtaking. The languid acoustics of “Figment of My Mind” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Older” have me wishing for at least one more upbeat track on the album as well, covering similar sonic ground without as much payoff. Shorter tracks like “She Chose Me” fare much better during the second half, the stripped-back instrumentation and shorter length making the track feel like some kind of overjoyed voice recording Major sang into his iPhone after a critical development in the relationship. It’s just how genuine Major sounds at times with his lyricism that really sells the project.
The title track that closes the album caps off the story in a heartwrenching way that adds more narrative potency to some of the less enjoyable moments here, a stark piano ballad that sees Major realize he’s been convincing himself that things were greater than they were and he might need to go do some more soul-searching alone. With a series of metaphors detailing how he can’t force something that simply isn’t, the little breaks in Major’s voice lend themselves to his sadness instead of his awestruck elation for the first time and end the project on a highly emotional note.
To Let A Good Thing Die is a very strong sophomore effort that could have benefitted from a little more versatility on Major’s part, but it’s clear that this is a story that is very affecting and personal to him that needed to be told in this way. As an up-and-coming songwriter, Major proves that he can play in the big leagues with this one. Hopefully we see him on some big-name releases in the future.
Favourite Tracks: The Most Beautiful Thing, Regent’s Park, Nothing, Old Soul, To Let A Good Thing Die
Least Favourite Track: Tapestry