On his new album, Not Everything Beautiful Is Good, Findlay Brown is searching for real beauty in the epic battle between dark and light. “I realise that for many years I’ve been feeding the “bad wolf” and need to feed the “good wolf” in me. Sometimes it is like walking on a tightrope trying not to fall into temptation,” says the Yorkshire-born singer-songwriter. “It is also reflected in the kind of world we see today.”
Findlay Brown’s fourth LP absorbs the cosmic imaginings of many influences from many places. Love is one of the album’s primary themes, filtered through the lens of philosophy, science and other meditations.
“It’s philosophical in a naive sort of way,” he says of the record, on which he plays guitar and keyboard. “There’s more optimism within the melancholy," says Brown in comparing it to his previous 2015 album Slow Light. Not Everything Beautiful Is Good also follows his 2007’s album Separated By The Sea and 2010’s Bernard Butler-produced Love Will Find You.
The album is imbued with a poetic sensibility that features wide-eyed couplets like those on 'Seven Hours': “When all that was / slips away / for seven hours / that severed hours / a light that starts to decay / for seven hours / that severed hours," he croons on a sci-fi love song about two lovers in different dimensions. "One must travel through a black hole so they can be together,” explains Brown. There’s also the sublime romantic beauty of ‘The Morning Waits For Us’, a track that nods to Brown’s new home with its descriptions of “seagulls in the sky, white sales and perfect shades of blue.”
On the album you can hear adventurous dynamic shifts, from the minimal acoustic balladry of ‘Call It What You Want’ - with its heartswelling lyrics about unconditional love, “You’ve been my great escape out of this world / into the emptiness / nothing can stop me now / you’re by my side / won’t let my love for you die” - to the driving, upbeat folk-pop of ‘Feet to the Flame’, which Brown counts among his favourite tracks.
Other standout songs on the LP include ambient-leaning instrumental, ’In Search of the Golden Flower’ - a lush, meditative trip which literally implores you to zone out - and the esoteric literature-inspired title track. The disparate sounds of folk troubadours Nick Drake and Jackson C. Frank, classic American songwriters Harry Nilsson and Paul Simon and avant-garde trailblazers Terry Riley and Arthur Russell float in and out of Not Everything Beautiful Is Good like ghosts.
Having left behind the hectic rush of Brooklyn for the blissful calm of rural Denmark to bring up his son and be “closer to family’, Brown’s surroundings have no doubt influenced his songwriting. He sketches out a sublime, bucolic scene: “When you step out of the door there’s a little street and a train station and then there’s a big forest and then there’s the ocean.” Yes, it may be the “loneliest place” the former Shoreditch-dweller has ever lived, but he’s made peace with himself and the loneliness. “I used to be really bad at being alone, but now I welcome some solitude,” he offers.
He’s hardly a solitary outlier 24/7, though. The capital Copenhagen is just a 15-minute train ride through gorgeous countryside and it’s here that Brown regularly goes for meet-ups with his musical compadres. He’s just launched a weekly club night called the Slow Coach Club and has plans to start a radio show - so the city’s close-knit, fertile music scene has certainly been kind to him, you could say.
“Relocating from New York, it’s been easy for me to meet great musicians here.” he explains. “I think being new to the city has been helpful.” A collaboration between two Danish musical institutions - producer and mixing engineer Tor Bach Kristensen and Blue Foundation band member Bo Rande, who garnished the album with warm washes of horns - along with local percussionists Fridolin Nordsø and Morten Lund, U2 and Coldplay David Rossi, who provided strings, Lukas Rande on saxophone and Elijah Thompson on bass - Not Everything Beautiful Is Good is as much a testament to teamwork as it is to honest, well-honed songwriting.
All of the lead vocals on the album were recorded live within the first or second take, which Brown says, was a “really conscious choice.” The songs were mostly written in spurts at home, while ‘Call It What You Want’ was written in New York. Pretty much all of the recording was done in a studio in Copenhagen.
Despite the collaborative spirit of the process, “home” is still very much at the heart of this album. “In my heart you’ll always stay / We get stronger every day / The world keeps turning as we watch him grow,” Brown opines on ‘Home’, the album’s lead single.
“It’s a very personal song - it literally is about me being at home in bed and my wife waking me up in the morning and about family life with our son. I was unsure about sharing it at first, because of its intimacy, but now I’m glad I did,” he explains.
Not Everything Beautiful Is Good beams with the confidence of a musician who has wrestled with his demons and a man who understands his art is as much a work-in-progress, as it is an extension of his self.