Better Person: Something to Lose (Arbutus) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 23rd, 2020  

Better Person

Something to Lose

Arbutus

Nov 18, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Since relocating from his native Poland to Berlin, Adam Byczkowski, better known as Better Person, has been building his reputation for silky European sophisti-pop. Byczkowski’s work in the underground Berlin scene earned him an opening slot with fellow synth pop devotees TOPS and a chance creative connection with MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser. With Goldwasser providing his production talents to Something to Lose, Better Person’s debut record hones his aesthetic, soaked in melodrama, 1980s schmaltz, and wistful torch songs. 

From the first moments of Something to Lose, Byczkowski delivers his music with a palpable fervency. Opener “Na Zawsze” sets the atmosphere with plush beds of synths, soaring melodies, and lush production, placing Better Person as a successor to the yearning pop of Sade. Although he sings in his native Polish in “Na Zawsze” and “Dotknij Mnie,” the effect does little to disrupt the album’s expansive and atmospheric aesthetics. Where his previous EP, 2016’s It’s Only You had the feel of a late-night haze, Something to Lose feels luxuriant and dreamlike. Byczkowski’s rich vocal croon brings the project together with the delivery of a hopeless romantic. 

Even given the resurgence of 1980s synth pop, Better Person travels his own path, coating his music in the most dramatic trappings of the genre. Tracks such as “Hearts on Fire” and “Close to You” fit well with the upbeat synth pop of Aztec Camera or The Blue Nile, encasing Byczkowski’s emotive vocals with layers of glassy synths, drum machines, and even a yacht rock-esque saxophone solo. The lyrics are equally indulgent, with Byczkowski pining for a transformative emotional connection. On “Bring Me to Tears” he sings, “Throw me in the ocean/Dump me in the sea/Crush my heart to pieces/I want to try something I can feel.” Better Person also shows an instinct for a few darker moments as well, such as on the nocturnal interlude “Glendale Evening,” which begins as a sedate piano palette cleanser before transitioning to a more anxiety laced synth drone by the end. Yet, Byczkowski’s commitment to these melodramatics never feels inauthentic or gauche when colored by the lush sonic palette of the record.

Although the album’s mood and aesthetic choices don’t vary much and are clearly indebted to its 1980s influences, Better Person’s debut reconstructs these elements with a loving eye and wistful tone. It is a fun and exceedingly smooth record, evoking visions of glittery Berlin nights. Getting swept away by the tender euphoric highs and yearning romance of Something to Lose is a welcome escape. (https://smarturl.it/xvsyld)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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