Thursday, June 15, 2017

Paul Childers - Naked Poetry

Paul Childers - Naked Poetry

Paul Childers hails from the Nashville area, but no one will ever confuse him with Music City’s typically country performers. His approach and style is urbane and deeply musical with style to burn., but there’s a lot of substance paired with the obvious stylishness. Childers displays all the finesse and musical acumen of a much older singer – the phrasing he serves up through the album’s run of thirteen songs is next to unforgettable and it’s filled with an emotive beauty that never overstates its case. Childers, instead, imposes an inviting but commanding air over these songs and molds his voice quite nicely around the rich musical arrangements. Naked Poetry is just that – an expression of self completely stripped of pretense, yet shaped by technique and inspiration for maximum effect. The sparkling performances comprising this release are among the year’s most memorable.  
Naked Poetry begins with the song “Music Pulls You Through”. If this were anyone else, it probably wouldn’t come off as sincere. The redemptive power of music to get you through a bad time doesn’t exactly rate as an inventive or particularly revelatory lyrical subject, but Childers’ songwriting has a real knack for specific and meaningful details that help listeners’ better experience the song. It’s a recurring strength. “The Art of Being Twenty” benefits from the same across the board excellence and authoritative songwriting voice that makes the first song such a memorable track. His lyrical turns in this one are particularly strong and showcase a writer with impressive wisdom in someone so young. “Why Don’t You Stay” hits a bluesy note that Childers shows a later willingness to revisit and the use of horns in this song are particularly effective. He never wastes listeners time with the album’s thirteen song s and their focus plays an enormous role in their final impact on the audience.  
“My Love of the Rain” could single-handedly carry this album. It’s stark evidence of his skills that Childers can take this deceptively simple arrangement and performance to such stratospheric heights. This sounds like the living beating heart of his music, but there’s no excitability to ruin his performance. Instead, Childers take it careful and slow, fixed on a goal of investing each line with almost religious importance. The effect is sensational. “No One Goes Dancing Anymore” is going to be a favorite for a lot of people. This invokes of the opener’s best attributes, namely Childers’ willingness to tell a story, and rolls out at just the right pace to hook listeners into its story. “Perfect Man” is a slightly rueful tune that, nevertheless, provides Childers’ audience with a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.  He’s learned a helpful lesson early on about working in the ranks of popular song – your audience will let you brood over more serious fare, but you have to give them a little bit of the sweet to help chase the taste of sour. “Throwing Shade” is an excellent final example of that. It’s delightful how he gives this rueful lyric the blessing of an almost buoyant musical backing quite at odds with the lyrical temper. Paul Childers is full of surprises and there are sure more to come, but he’s also one of the brightest talents to debut in recent memory.  

Ed Price

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Jupiter in Velvet - In2 the Arms of Love

Jupiter in Velvet - In2 the Arms of Love 

Jupiter in Velvet writes songs, sings, and plays like a man who has been alive with creativity since he first turned his attention to music. The ten songs on his latest album In2 the Arms of Love mixes up a lot of guitar oriented textures with physically gripping tempos and a generous sampling of modern technology that comes together to make an enormous impact on the audience. The impact isn’t entirely derived from his musical content. Much of it, as well, comes from the unusual qualities of his lyrics. Jupiter in Velvet embraces humanism, above all else, and it’s filtered through a distinctive post modern hippiedom deeply connected to his musical vision. These are songs that seek unity with the audience along with a license to entertain them as much as possible. By any measure, Jupiter in Velvet’s In2 the Arms of Love is a resounding success.  
“In2 the Arms of Love” grabs listeners early. This is an infectious pop rock number capable of sweeping any audience along – this is music that, despite his idiosyncratic nature, cuts across all typical lines of musical preference. He has a sharp ear for crafting memorable guitar riffs and this is one of the best on the album. There’s an automated, industrialized quality to the guitar riffing on “’Till the End of the World” and the rhythm section doubles it to impressive effect. Song after song, Jupiter in Velvet brings the full force of his vocal abilities to bear in an effort to give the songs a dramatic and riveting interpretation. There isn’t a single instance on this album of him failing to do so and the album’s second track, in particular, receives a stunning singing performance. “I’m So ready” finds himself relying less on any sort of discernible finesse and more on pure lung muscle. He barrels through the straight-forward musical and vocal attack of this performance, but it never abandons style entirely. He latches onto the lean vocal melody from the first line and gives this song the same unique spin defining his other work.  
“How It’s Gonna Be” is much more orchestrated fare, at least overtly so, than many of the other numbers on in2 the Arms of Love. It intersperses forbidding flashes of electric guitar through a predominantly acoustic guitar attack and the rhythm section, once again, does an outstanding job of supporting the top line melodic instruments. Pop leanings play a much bigger role on songs like “Supercharged” and “Nowhere 2 Run”, albeit in very different ways. The first song goes more to the high octane punk pop stomp of other tracks on In2 the Arms of Love, with a focus on a strong chorus, while the second of the two songs is cut from a much more playful, retro sounding cloth. “Mars Ain’t that Far” has some more playfulness in it, a quality missing from the earlier half of the album, but it also possesses a romping energy that makes it an enjoyable ride from the start. The conclusion of In2 the Arms of Love is another guitar workout with a pop edge, “Walking Thru Time”, that returns us for a final time to some themes central to Jupiter in Velvet’s songwriting. Personal voyages of one sort or another encompass this work but the artist works tirelessly to get those experience over with his audience. It’s a winner through and through. 

Raymond Burris

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

We The Dreamers - We all Need Time (EP)

We The Dreamers - We all Need Time (EP)

We The Dreamers bring a bi-coastal musical vision to life on their seven song debut "We all Need Time" EP. Myke Wilken and Ethan Rose hail from very different musical backgrounds, but they find common ground in the way that they view life and how that relates to their development of songs. Their songwriting specializes in intimacy, but it also has a talent for casting an universal air over the musical proceedings that means anyone can sit down with this release and find their way into its experiences. Wilken’s upbringing in the Southern California area and Rose’s in the upstate New York area never shows any hints of a mismatch – instead, their musical visions come together without so much as a hiccup. There’s a great balance of different instruments holding sway over the songwriting and nothing ever wins out at the expense of other sounds. This is an album that’s a winner from the start and built on the back of its first single “Time”.  
“Crystal” starts off the self-titled debut with just the right amount of pop excellence and intelligence. There’s a great deal of care that’s been obviously exercised with this collection’s lyrics and Myke Wilken exercises tremendous attention with his phrasing. Wiken stresses the right syllables, cuts off others, and obviously spends a great deal of energy listening to what his collaborator Rose is laying out. “Parasol” changes things up a little more. It does have quite the same amount of patience that we hear in the opener “Strawberry Dream” has a more retro approach than the other songs on this collection. The weaving of acoustic and electric guitar, the former dominating, makes this stand out from the remainder of the songs and the recordings brings those different sonic elements together in a satisfying way. The vocals here are particularly notable. Wilken elevates his game to match the emphatic nature of the musical arrangement and matches its mood without ever laying things on too much. 
“Wiser” doesn’t necessarily til new musical and lyrical ground, but the musical stamp that We The Dreamers put on these preceding make it a decidedly different affair than we’ve heard so far on the debut, Wilken’s confidence is audible, but he never goes too far and gives just the right amount of personality to the performance. The finale “Time” is a natural selection for the album’s first single and it comes off as a much more fully realized idea of what the band’s music wants to be. The guitars, synth, keyboard, and melodic forces in this song all work in perfect sympathy with one another and it results in the EP’s finest all around performance. Debuts seldom come better than this. Myke Wilken and Ethan Rose have unusual chemistry both as writers and performers, but what comes across most strongly from this collection is the connection they have as individuals. The seven songs on the duo’s debut underline and promise even greater things to come.   

Pamela Bellmore