Can you hear your own accent? Maybe not. But in Alabama, you can certainly hear when someone sounds different.
Make no mistake about it— Space Tyger is different. And not just for northwest Alabama.
Bittersweet is the third full-length from Space Tyger, the moniker of Florence, Alabama musician and songwriter Kyle Bragwell. In a decidedly post-genre musical landscape, Bragwell has adopted a modern approach to creating his art, and in the process, has claimed his spot as a progenitor of a fresh, genre-less sound.
If it must be defined, Space Tyger makes compelling, well-written, irresistible synth-pop. It’s music that takes the sensibilities of Frank Ocean and mixes them with the surreal experimentation of The Flaming Lips. And like the Lips, part of what makes it special is the accent— and the friction— that comes from life in rural America.
Is it what you expect from a musician from Muscle Shoals? Likely not. But a deeper listen reveals serious songwriting chops and a natural instinct behind the board that makes perfect sense for a kid that came of age around legends of the craft.
“I became a student of what happened here and beyond that, of course. It’s pretty crucial in my musically formative years. My roots are definitely based in soul, blues, rock, and R&B,” Bragwell explains. "In my twenties I got into some weird stuff and dove into producing music entirely on my own. I would make demos with electronic sounds and samples just to get the idea down, then fell in love with how it started to feel. It felt fresh to me.
"Some musical pursuits might shun anything that is or isn’t recorded a certain way being that this is a famous recording town. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter. Do you like what you hear? Cool.”
Throughout nine songs written, performed and recorded solely by Bragwell, Bittersweet follows his path from the disorienting madness of misdiagnosed manic depression to love found, love lost, and an eventual positive outcome.
It’s the sound and story of a kid that touched the edge… and grew from it.
“Without me realizing it, Bittersweet was my way of explaining these past two years of my life,” Bragwell says. “I was in a place where I was disillusioned with what I was doing. I was numb from the mood stabilizers I was prescribed. But then she came around.”
Unlike his previous releases on which each song may feel like an individual thought, Bittersweet is an album woven tightly together for the sake of a fuller story. It’s a period piece, diving deep into the heart of a formative time in a young musician’s life. Just like a novel you can’t put down, listeners are meant to be drawn to the next song, the next chapter.
For Bittersweet, he signed with Single Lock, a label out of the Muscle Shoals area that’s demonstrated a knack for embracing the modern sound of the South by highlighting unexpected talents, regardless of genre.
Even still, Bittersweet is uncharted sonic territory for the label.
"Kyle’s a really brilliant artist, and sometimes, rural areas don’t know how to treat their artists. All of us that do this for a living and lean progressive have been called ‘weird’ in our communities. It’s part of growing up artistic and different in the South,” Reed Watson, label partner and manager says.
“For those that stick with it and possess the gift, the result is usually something really special. We want to help artists like Kyle tell those stories.”
The hallmark of Muscle Shoals music is that it comes from the heart— real songs delivered by real people in an honest and compelling way. As Space Tyger, Kyle Bragwell cements himself as part of that heritage.
“The sense of pride people have about the music around here is so cool,” Bragwell says. "One of my goals has always been to leave my own stamp on it."
On Bittersweet, the stamp he leaves is bold, bright and inventive.