Ethan Larsh / Ethan Larsh Breaks Hearts / November 2017
RIYL: Billy Joel, Elton John, Ben Folds, Queen, Broadway (the street), Broadway (Where musicals happen), Pianos (Grand only), Drugs and how you miss them
Billy Joel was on to something with that song “Piano Man.” A whole room can coalesce around one human sitting at a piano playing tunes about anything. For a moment, in your mind, picture that grand instrument: Elusive and complicated, yet the key to understanding so much in western music. I have great respect for anyone who can play a piano because I strongly feel it will forever be on my bucket list of things I should learn to play but never will. But we all have to have dreams, right?
However, this review is about Ethan Larsh, a Pennsylvania upstart who is mining the best of Trip Shakespeare’s 90’s croon-rock and Ben Folds’ knack for composition and sardonic lyricism. “Power pop about love, God, and drugs” says the bandcamp page, and that strikes me as pretty accurate.
These songs feel like they’d belong on a stage on Broadway as much as they would shine being half slurred at a back room in a dive bar somewhere in Oklahoma. That’s the beauty of a piano. It’s such a personal instrument that doesn’t rely on intense electronics or tone pedals to give it a distinct voice, it’s all dependent on the personality of who’s playing it. Billy Joel, Elton John, Erik Satie, Mozart, they all used the same god damn instrument with the same god damn tone and all made strikingly different types of music. Other instruments obviously do the same thing, but never as full and complete as a piano.
Listen to this album and keep an ear out for someone playing it somewhere. I bet you’ll wanna sing along to, “I miss cocaine and the way it affects my brain.” ‘Cause few things bring a room together like a human singing songs at a piano.