“First Do No Harm” might be a daunting first song for people hearing Kazyak for the first time. Many listeners are accustomed to bands keeping a narrow focus on an album’s first song; sometimes an uptempo number to get things off to a rousing start, sometimes something else. Kazyak’s “First Do No Harm”, the opening for their album Reflection, makes no bones about the Minneapolis band’s wont for pursuing a wider vision of music than we hear from most young bands – electronic sounds, acoustic, harsh rock guitar, banjo, piano, the band shies away from nothing that serves their songwriting. “Our Daydream” underlines their retro influences, but it isn’t enough for them to recycle bygone sounds with modern production and they dispatch this song with such stylish command, musical substance from stunning acoustic guitar, and lustrous vocals bringing Peter Frey’s intimate lyrics to vivid life.
Another big reason for me to like this album is how well Frey and Andy Wolfe work together as guitarist. They are capable of leaving heavy footprints on a song at any given moment, but they work towards a common goal and their playing remains distinct, yet sympathetic, over the course of Reflection. “Talking to a Stranger” is an intense showcase for both musicians as their styles mesh in dramatic way we don’t hear on the album’s first two songs. The electric guitar is assertive in ways “First Do No Harm” hinted at and we hear some progressive influences in the band’s DNA seamlessly weaving around the song’s core Americana/bluegrass sound. Pat Hayes’ synth playing plays an enormous role in making their song stick in your memory, but there are other jolting touches scattered throughout the tune.
Drummer Nick Grewe and bassist Tyler Safranek are the core of what makes “Quicksand” work thanks to their outsized presence in the mix, but the vocal garners attention as well thanks to its light echo effect enhancing the song’s mood. Frey’s lyrical talents reach another peak, as well, with this one and there’s some dazzling synthesizer playing from Hayes just after the song’s mid way point worth the price of purchase alone. His writing skills, however, left me blown away with the track “Androcles” – nothing less than Frey’s own riffing on tropes of classical storytelling that, despite its intelligence and obvious literary bent, remains comprehensible and open to any listener. The arrangement couldn’t possibly complement his words better.
“10,000 Flowers” has echoes of make-up songs, love songs, and self-reflection gathering and losing importance during Frey’s songwriting. His imagery, as always, is on point and gives you concrete details for the imagination while never dictating your own interpretation of the song’s lyrics or story. It’s a relaxed and fairy direct ending for an album notable for many reasons, but chief among them it refusal to be anything it isn’t. Kazyak has left an indelible mark on the musical year with the release of Reflection and they are, undoubtedly, far from finished. Minneapolis has produced a plethora of memorable bands and artists, the city continues to do so, but I am unafraid to say Kazyak may prove to be among the most interesting export in many years.