‘Haven’t been myself’ stirs emotion

By Nick Erickson, Staff writer

Sometimes inspiration is hard to come by for artists. Many use heartache to fuel their creative process, but few do it as effortlessly as Lexington, Kentucky, natives Too Close To Touch. The rock quintet’s newest endeavor “Haven’t Been Myself”  is as raw and emotional as music can possibly get, touching base on every subject matter from unrequited love to the death of a sibling.

 Vocalist Keaton Pierce, an alumni of Murray State, has poured every ounce of his soul into the lyrics he sings on this record. After the release of 2014’s “Nerve Endings,” Pierce and his bandmates went through their own personal ordeals, and this record is his chance to encapsulate those emotions, channeling his feelings in a way clear for anyone to relate to.

From the muted strums and soft singing that kick off “Sympathy” to its bombastic chorus, this track is a force to be reckoned with, as Pierce sings of empty support from his loved one over pounding drums. “Don’t you dare say I’m gonna make it, ‘cause I don’t believe a word you say,” Pierce sings.

 Guitarists Mason Marble and Thomas Kidd shine on “Miss Your Face,” which features some of the rawest, gritty singing on the record, transitioning from a soft build of ambiance to Pierce spilling his heart out to an estranged lover over acoustic guitars.

 “Would it be easier to turn away from all the things we’ve made? Too afraid, and I can’t take it,” Pierce sings.

 The lax-paced “The Art of Eye Contact” details a story of meaningless intimacy. This track is a stand-out on the record due to its pace and reliance on electronic beats and subtle, reverb-laden guitar strums. Those being a softer track, the bridge features a gut-wrenching, honest punch that rivals others on the album.

“What A Shame” starts with dark synthesized beats and piano, then kicks into gear with the full ensemble. Pierce sings of his struggle to admit he is in a wrong state of mind after a relationship’s demise. His voice trembles throughout, over the wall of distorted, melancholic guitars raiding listeners’ ears. The bridge, which highlights impressive guitar fretwork, also features some of the most vulnerable lyrics on the album. “This is a cry for help I don’t show,” Pierce sings.

 Closer “Eiley” serves as a eulogy to Pierce’s 3-year-old sister who died in December 2015. As a mixture of somber guitars and aggressive drums back him up, Pierce questions why his sister was taken and begs God to take him instead. His voice cracks and he breaks down crying during the song’s bridge, which fades back into the strongest chorus on the album.

“Haven’t Been Myself” is one of the darkest, yet most beautiful records of the year. Pierce’s lyricism is both poetic and easy to comprehend. His vocal range is unmatched in today’s music scene, and the instrumentals on this record offer a great array of dynamics. Too Close To Touch has grown exponentially the last two years, and now they are more cohesive and emotionally-charged than ever. Prepare to feel.