Helplessly Devoted to You
November 14, 2015
Driving down a scenic road with the windows cracked just enough to let the autumnal breeze in, encompassed on all sides by beautiful orange and yellow leaved tree tops is where I picture myself as the first few bars of Particle Devotion’s first song, “The Way It Was” plays on my stereo.
However, despite the mesmerizing quality of this music, I was ignorantly unfamiliar with its brilliance mere days before. In fact, the first time I heard a Particle Devotion song was in English class, where my teacher Meg Bell played “Far Away” (Track 6) to demonstrate its relevance to plot elements in a novel the class is reading. When Bell brought out her little CD player and her copy of the band’s self-titled debut album, she approached the front of the class beaming peevishly. She was a bit flustered, trying to decide whether to tell students of its source, but she ultimately shared it with the class. The band’s founding member Brian Bell is, as his surname may imply, her son. Bell’s personal ties to her son’s album make it all the more important to her.
The second track, “Beautiful, Bright Mess,” opens with soft percussion and lilting xylophone work. Throughout the album, the use of percussion is apparent in aiding the messages of the album. Understandably, this heavy percussionist flare derives from Brian’s past as a drummer. Throughout high school, he was the drummer of the jazz band and head of the snare line. The summer after his junior year, Brian attended a summer camp at Louisiana State University recommended to him by his band director. He returned home from the trip with a full scholarship.
“He didn’t even realize what it was,” Bell said. “He was like, ‘here, they gave me this paper.'”
Bell’s favorite track has grown to be the next one, “Pause Button.” She feels its magisterial beauty and praises its perceptive lyrics. One line in particular (“You know, I’m feeling better. I’m feeling home.”) gives Bell chill bumps every time she hears it.
“Open Window No. 1” is an instrumental dead set on putting the audience to sleep. This, however, is not a critique of its simple elegance. This track sounds like meditation feels. Its siblings, “Open Window No. 2” and “Open Window No. 3,” are equally alluring.
The guitar intros to pieces like “Casey’s Song” and “Stockholm Syndrome” remind me of artists such as Sixpence None the Richer and The Cranberries. Brian’s contributions to these soft rock jams include lead vocals, guitar, piano, and the lyrics themselves. Bell knows vaguely that the inspiration for his songs comes from life and the influence of a past relationship, but her son hasn’t shared much.
“He’s a little bit guarded about his creative process,” Bell said. “I think he feels like talking about it a lot kind of cheapens it and he wants to keep it genuine and real.”
From the way Bell describes it, her son carries the principle of musical authenticity to any project he’s involved in. The smile which creeps onto her face when she gets a chance to brag about her son is instantly iconic to proud moms everywhere.
“He’d always been a leader, he’d always won awards; you could always see that he truly had talent,” Bell said. “He truly loves doing music for the art of it. He doesn’t have any sense of any commercial [goals]. He loves being with other musicians who are talented and coming together and it’s been wonderful.”
But other songs on the album share the glory with those aforementioned. “Johnny Mac” is extremely peppy and “They Are Back Again” embodies a trippy vibe similar to a ripple on the surface of a pond.
At twenty minutes and two seconds, the length of song “I Thought” may be intimidating. However, if one has the time to enjoy this spectacle, one can experience the more alternative side of Particle Devotion. Brian’s now slightly distorted voice is backed by a guiding rhythm and the slow jam is a refreshing escape from the fast-paced hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Speaking with Bell about her son’s album elicits warm fuzzy feelings. Her support for him and his work is apparent.
“I’m just very proud of him,” she said. “He’s got a great mind and a beautiful heart and he always has. He’s my baby boy.”
Click here to listen to the album.
Editor’s Note: this story was updated Nov. 14 at 9:04 a.m.