I have been a listener of Bruno Major since his 2017 album, A Song For Every Moon. His ambient musical style allows a person to sink into each song, landing at least one of his songs on almost all of my playlists. Columbo is Major’s third studio album and is arguably the most minimalist member of his discography, forgoing his usual piano to write the tracks with a guitar alone. Major’s music has always been full of soul, but Columbo in particular has a crooning tone that gives each song a unique depth.
Despite the peaceful atmosphere it creates, Columbo was written about, and during, a particularly tumultuous time in Major’s life. Major has described himself as making up for time lost during the pandemic by indulging in the most hedonistic human urges. Parties, drinking, falling in love, and crashing a car are all featured in Columbo’s tracks, these troubling experiences being masked by Major’s silky voice and delicate piano. Major certainly toes the line between calming and boring, but he manages to keep each song engaging so the listener is tuned in. Major is currently on tour, where he plays with a full band even though the album itself contains far less production. I will personally be attending the September 14th show at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, and all other tour dates and a link to get tickets will be provided at the end of the review!
“The Show Must Go On”
Favorite Lyric → “Pawn your broken heart and sell your soul”
Review: To kick off the album, Major opens with an insight into his feelings surrounding the art of performance. The relaxing instrumentation is betrayed by lyrics that describe the exhaustive nature of show business and illustrate the immense personal sacrifice that is demanded by the music industry. The lyric “Pawn your broken heart and sell your soul” is a representation of the commodification of a person’s pain through songwriting. Sadness sells, and writing songs about heartbreak and one’s deepest sorrows tends to captivate listeners in a trance of relatability. This song feels like a pep talk that Major is giving himself, looking in a mirror and forcing himself to continue despite the hardship.
Favorite Lyric → “I play them to strangers / But I’m always singing to her”
Review: When doing some preliminary research for this album review, I discovered that this song was born of a handwritten note that Major had asked a friend to pass to a former lover. Major is seeking forgiveness, but he is also coming to terms with the end of the relationship. There is no right way to seek closure, and sometimes, despite our efforts to move on, things always remind us of one person.
Favorite Lyric → “You pretty thing / All chemicals and nuts and bolts”
Review: It took me way too long to realize this song was about a car, which is a credit to Major’s songwriting prowess. Major purchased a ‘78 Mercedes as the pandemic was receding, and his impulsive buy is an indication of the internal chaos he was experiencing at the time. Upon my first listen, I assumed that the song was about the death of a loved one, and I wasn’t completely incorrect, as the car was totaled in a crash, rendering the vehicle “dead.” Columbo may be gone, but the feeling of driving the Pacific Coast Highway remains.
“We Were Never Really Friends”
Favorite Lyric → “We let the lines get blurry / Now both of us are hurting”
Review: This is one of the most relatable songs on the album for me. It screams situationship gone wrong. When boundaries aren’t properly set in a relationship, one person tends to want more from the other than they are capable of giving. One person falls in love while the other stays apathetic, or both fall but neither has the emotional space for commitment. It’s painfully real, and in the end, both parties end up hurt and alone.
“When Can We Be”
Favorite Lyric → “If only we knew / That the moon won’t turn blue”
Review: The gramophone-esque audio is captivating, and it lends itself to the antique vibe of the whole album. This song is shorter, but it packs a punch with lyrics about a relationship that never seems to come at the right time. I admire Major’s ability to sing with such composure and poise about incredibly painful things.
“A Strange Kind of Beautiful”
Favorite Lyric → “Singing to an empty hall, silence at / the curtain call”
Review: It’s an ode to the more petite beauties in life that often go unnoticed, things that you may only notice because you are already deeply in love. When you’re absorbed by someone’s every movement, you memorize the little things that make them unique. This is the most romantic song on the album, and it sets itself apart with a light and hopeful tone. I feel like this song is meant to be performed in an old hotel bar, but the message is apparent regardless of your listening environment.
“You Take The High Road”
Favorite Lyric → “So long as you can see so clear / Then I’ll see clearly, too”
Review: The epitome of putting someone else’s happiness before your own and allowing someone else to flourish and grow, even if it means sacrificing your potential. This can be interpreted as a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it: some may see it as the ultimate act of love, others as a sign of unequal partnership and toxicity. The song gives a more rosy image of the sacrifice, which removes an element of ambiguity, but there is no natural way of determining the moral standing of putting someone else first to such an extreme.
Favorite Lyric → “Cause I’m twice the age you’ll ever be”
Review: This one hurt. Knowing that you’ll continue to grow old while they stay the same age for eternity due to losing someone at the very beginning of their life. Being young is about taking risks, experimenting, and pushing our limits because adolescents are so often told that we can’t squander our youth and that we only have so long to act without apparent consequence. However, consequences exist regardless of whether or not we are aware of their presence, and the freedom of youth can come at a price. Major is singing for someone deceased. How they died is not completely clear, but some lyrics allude to someone taking their own life. Regardless of the cause of death, this song is brutal and adds a profoundly melancholy feeling to the album overall.
“Tears In Rain (For Granny)”
Favorite Lyric → “Sitting down in your chair smells / like your perfume, but you’re not / there”
Review: Another hard hitter towards the end of the album, and as someone very close with their grandmother, this was a teary listen for me. Grief is funny in that it forces us to reconcile all the things we never got to do or say to someone who is now gone. It demands to be felt, and it makes us cling to the little things that remind us of someone. In A Strange Kind of Beautiful, Major describes the little things that you notice about the people you love, and in this track, he is forced to make use of those traits because they are often all that is left of someone who has passed. Perhaps the saddest part of this song is the ending conclusion that despite our best efforts, the traits we remember tend to all melt together over time, and we lose the ability to distinguish between characteristics. In the end, we are more often than not left with an amalgamation of all the things we know about a loved one.
“St Mary’s Terrace”
Favorite Lyric → N/A
Review: One of my favorite things about Bruno Major is his ability to capture a very specific atmosphere and setting in each of his songs. This instrumental track in particular feels to me like reading in the bay window in my grandmother’s house while it rains, like escaping the real world to the sounds of a piano. Major manages to sound both classical and contemporary in the same short song.
Favorite Lyric → “Though, we’re the same person, / unfortunately”
Review: The saying ‘opposites attract’ is not always accurate in the same way that having a lot in common with someone isn’t always a bad thing. However, sometimes talking to someone very similar to you can be reminiscent of speaking to a mirror. To know yourself is to know them.
Favorite Lyric → N/A
Review: I like it when artists do an instrumental as the last song on an album. It feels like the end of a movie rather than the end of an album. The laid-back atmosphere of the final song is incredibly reflective of the general aura of the entire album.
Bruno Major’s Columbo is an enchanting album, with a consistent smoothness and an undertone of nostalgia that makes for a peaceful yet jazzy experience. Columbo is simultaneously relaxing and stimulating, and it has a great blend of both instrumental and lyrical pieces. I will say that it is an album for making oneself a little drowsy, as listening gives the same sensation I imagine cats experience when they fall asleep in a sunbeam. Bruno Major’s artistry completely blew me away, and as the leaves begin to change and autumn is ushered in, Columbo will be playing in my headphones daily.
Tour Dates and Locations
September 11 – San Francisco, CA – The Warfield
September 13 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern *NEW
September 14 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern *SOLD OUT
September 15 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park *SOLD OUT
September 16 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren
September 18 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater
September 19 – Austin, TX – Mohawk
September 20 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall
September 22 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
September 23 – Nashville, TN – Brooklyn Bowl
September 25 – Chicago, IL – Vic Theatre
September 26 – Toronto, ON – HISTORY *SOLD OUT
September 29 – New York, NY – Terminal 5
September 30 – Boston, MA – Roadrunner
October 1 – Washington, DC – The Howard Theatre
November 8 – Cologne, DE – CBE
November 9 – Berlin, DE – Kesselhaus
November 11 – Antwerp, BE – Trix
November 12 – Amsterdam, NL – Melkweg *SOLD OUT
November 14 – Paris, FR – Le Trabendo
November 17 – Glasgow, UK – Saint Luke’s
November 18 – Manchester, UK – Academy 2 *SOLD OUT
November 21 – Dublin, IE – Vicar Street
November 23 – London, UK – O2 Forum Kentish Town *SOLD OUT
Photos by Bailey Mendelson (Harbour AM)