Off the Charts Pick of the Week: Kiefer’s “Bridges”

With the release of Bridges, Kiefer Shackelford has become one of the most exciting artists to follow in the age of emerging electronic based sub-genres.

Kiefer is a keyboard king with a deep love of jazz, which influences his choice for drum beat style, love of brass instruments, and the improvised feel of his tracks. Kiefer’s music contains similarities to lo-fi music as well, however, his adoption of a less orchestrated sound through keyboard riffs and solos give way to his sub-genre of new era jazz.

Despite his short career, Kiefer’s discography has been incredibly impressive to follow. Kickinit Alone is Kiefer’s first project from March 2017, and his second studio album, Happysad, stands as a personal top five album from 2018.

Additionally, for Anderson .Paak’s 2018 album Oxnard, Kiefer hopped in Dre’s booth and played some great riffs for the track “Smile/Petty.”  Also, for Paak’s new release, Ventura, Kiefer gained production credits on “Yada Yada” and “King James.”

Outside of studio as a keyboard artist and beatmaker, Kiefer’s live presence is remarkable. Some of my favorite Kiefer moments are this boiler room set from Nov. 2017, this performance of “What a Day”, and his Against The Clock video for FACT magazine.

Kiefer has a new show called “Records Shirts and Donuts” that showcases the behind-the-scenes of his life as an artist and musical collaborator.

On Dec. 2, 2018, Kiefer announced his upcoming EP saying “This EP is about effort. Putting more effort into compositions, arrangements, and sounds… 4 U and 4 myself.”

Then, on Feb. 15 and after months of anticipation, Kiefer declared that Bridges would be coming on Apr. 5, and released the first single for the project, “Sunny.” A few weeks later, Kiefer published the track “Cute” on March 5, and later “Orange Crayon” on the March 19.

Bridges dropped as a 6-song, 18-minute extended play. The project is packed full of stimulating tracks, with characteristic Kiefer sounds, and elements of newly explored musical territory.

“Journey” is the opening track on the EP. While the song showcases an unconventional Kiefer sound with slow buildup and minimal activity, the main intention is the transition into the heart of the project.

Following the prelude is “Island,” a keyboard-dominant slower track with low-intensity supporting sounds. Instead of following a strict verse-chorus structure, the song incorporates extended unorchestrated piano solos; the jazz influence shines through.

“Orange Crayon” represents a more structured track on the project with a recurring main melody. Kiefer utilizes a characteristic baseline to accompany a remarkable solo, leading to a compelling climax around the two minute, 10-second mark of the track.

As shown on Kickinit Alone, Kiefer has a strong desire to manipulate the role the piano on a track, and “Cute” is a good example of that. In this song, the keyboard entertains an atypical electronic sound and defines the dynamic of the track.

“Sunny” was the first and main single of the project and still stands as the peak of Bridges. The high-energy song is reminiscent of Happysad through the incorporation of beautiful keyboard melodies, deep background harmonies, and hard-hitting drums and bass line.

The closing song, “Green Crayon,” is another fun and dynamic track that follows a recurring drum framework with cool use of keyboard harmonies. Along with “Sunny”, this song has the potential to perform well off the EP.

Bridges is an excellent EP in its entirety and the individual tracks all seem to fill a specific role towards the goal of high-quality music. To revisit the tweet from Dec. 2018, this EP showcases Kiefer’s dedication and ability to deeply understand his music in order to perfectly construct a project.

Kiefer has been a remarkable artist to follow through his short career and the release of Bridges gives listeners a checkup on where he stands. Beyond his prowess as a keyboard artist and beatmaker, Kiefer has shown the world how his influences make him the best instrumental artist out today.

-Andrew Edds

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