Two Years has been a labor of love for Kiernan McMullan for–you guessed it–two years. This collection of tunes tells the story of how he struck out on his own after his first recording contract wasn’t all he ever dreamed. From the opening track, What If, we learn just how hard it is to find that confidence and drive. With a sure and steady beat, Kiernan asks, “What if I go too far?” While there are some romantic elements to the song, questioning a love interest’s likeliness to wait around for him to pursue his dream, I can hear the underlying concerns. What if I made the wrong choice? What if I lose everything in my quest for something real?
Catch My Breath continues the story, chronicling the ridiculous touring schedules to which artists are subjected. As an independent singer/songwriter, Kiernan obviously has to endure an even stricter schedule, without the perks and benefits that some might enjoy. The song begins gently but eventually builds to a driving conclusion, with McMullan begging for a break from the ceaseless shows, traveling, writing, performing, missing his friends and family, getting lost in new cities, and any of the other hardships that make this job so hard and even more rewarding in the end.
As you might imagine, with an album covering two years of writing, recording, performing, and promoting, the personal struggles of the artist must be covered. Heartbeat is the heartbreaking tale of how a relationship suffers when the sacrifices on both parts still aren’t enough to make it work. There’s a slight tongue-in-cheek feeling that disguises some of the anger and sadness, but it’s still a deep and emotional song.
We see a turnaround with Sick of You, where he takes a moment or four to remind himself why he does what he does. In a very understated way, this is his victory song, because he dismisses those who question the beliefs he holds–whatever those beliefs may be. In Alright Was Never Good Enough, he allows himself to make some mistakes. It’s a reminder that striving for perfection isn’t a bad thing, but we have to remember to keep living, learning, and loving as we aim for the top.
Carousel was the standout track for me. An a capella opening lulls the listener into a state of complacency, much like the steady round-and-round of a carousel might, but then Kiernan punches us right in the gut with a full arsenal of instruments and powerful vocals. I couldn’t get enough of this song. The production, lyrics, build–it’s all absolutely perfect, and a crowning achievement on this record, as far as I’m concerned.
Two Years closes the album, like something of an epilogue. This is where we are made a part of his victory as he realizes the dream of putting out an album that says what he wants to say and sounds exactly as he’d hoped. Two years is a long time in a world where everyone’s always looking for the next big thing, but Kiernan has managed to keep each tune relevant and each story relatable. In answer to your questions, Kiernan, you made the right choice, and you’ve definitely given us something real.
Photo by Heather Johns