Living in Shadows - Album Review
Award-winning vocalist Zoe Gilby and multi-instrumentalist Andy Champion’s debut album Living in Shadows features eight tracks of a complete fusion of alt-rock, prog-rock, and jazz tradition. Zoe Gilby and Andy Champion created a great sound with their aptitude in different sections. While vocalist Zoe Gilby uses her voice exquisitely throughout the album, she also manages to accompany the melody and rhythm almost flawlessly. On the other hand, Andy Champion’s multi-instrumentalist approach to the album adds a great amount of musical value and makes the sound more complex and refined. Their different approaches to the sound they managed to create with different genres of music allowed them to carry out complex rhythms, interesting polychords, and catchy melismas accompanied by great chord progressions. Their adventurousness and search for individuality show themselves throughout the album with the bright and alive sound of the tracks.
1. For the Day:
The opening track starts with some nutritious piano chords, skillfully introducing the harmonic vibe of the album. The piano is then joined by an arpeggiated synth and they lead us to the main groove. The vocal enters after a couple of bars on top of a very well balanced instrumentation, everything is in the right place! Vocal delivery is beautiful. The melodies guide your way through the song with greatly detailed dynamics and harmonics here and there. The ambiance helps making the tune captivating. Listening to this with headphones and your eyes closed will activate your imagination. For me the listening experience was like flying through melancholic blue clouds in a cold and dark night, coated with a wave of heat that feels like home. The production can often get out of hand and overpopulate similar type of tracks, however, Zoe and Andy seem to have everything sorted out. The sound is truly professional, levitating Zoe's heartfelt delivery and Andy's ambitious arrangement, in a rather minimalistic manner that still sounds sonically large. Generally a very powerful opening track to an album like this.
2. Running Feet:
The second track of the album starts very melodically. The song presents a vibrant, yet relaxing melody that includes a duet of guitars and drums. That allows for a smooth transition for the section that includes vocals. Zoe Gilby's delivery of the vocal is sophisticated and beautiful yet again. It presents calm, yet nice music that you would listen to as background music. In fact, it's the exact type of music that I would call a "menu music". It reminds me of the menu of a video game, specifically ones that include jazz music on the background like Gran Turismo. I definitely see an opportunity in that aspect for this song. The backing track, which has piano and guitars highlighted, really complements that feeling and makes the listener feel like they are doing something sophisticated, elegant, and classy. Great job for establishing that feeling.
3. Try to Take it Twice:
The third song of the album is a song in which pop music and jazz have been harmonized. You wouldn't notice if you were to come by it on Spotify's either jazz or pop playlists. The backing track and the vocal are distinctly different from each other and create a layered sound effect, which results in a piece of very sophisticated and good-sounding music. There are six different "layers" of sound: One that's established by piano, one that's established by the drums, one that's established by a string instrument, one with a deeper, bass, vocal, and one with the relatively higher-pitched vocal performance of Zoe Gilby. The listener can easily focus on and distinguish those layers, which all carry a very well-written, sophisticated melody. With all of those aspects combined, we would say that this piece is the best track of the album by far! If you enjoy both Pop, Rock, and Jazz music, you should definitely give this one a try.
4. Sending Electricity:
Bam! The 4th track hits the listener just like that and instantly makes them do the jazz face. Double-bass, drums, and vocals grooving in 7/4. A sudden new perspective emerges to the project - as the previous tracks were more chord dependent - with the wicked bass riff. The spacing between the notes perfectly interacts with the drums and vocals making the time signature dance. The piano joins in shortly afterward. The guitars also emerge with a rhythmic pattern enriching the groove. We are then back in a soundscape that is similar to the previous tracks. Choosing to layout the track this way creates variety in the album and sends electricity to the listener, capturing attention with the groove. Even in an energetic tune like this Zoe and Andy manage to communicate a slight bitterness through the melody.
The 5th track of the album is a very vibrant and life-like song that sounds like it should belong in a Disney movie. The strings, piano, drums, and bass is very well incorporated and creates very nice melodies in between vocals. The refreshing sound of Zoe Gilby only contributes to that. The way lyrics were presented, saying phrases in a very long time and then, with a perfect cadence, ending the musical sentence is the main reason for that effect. The only improvement would be that sometimes the transitions cause that effect to end suddenly, only to start again. That creates a sense of complexity within the song and takes away the pleasant emotions it causes on the listener. However, that problem is only subtle and lasts for a short time. It doesn't mean that this highly sophisticated and pleasant song is a bad one. It would be a go-to song if you already feel vibrant and happy, or if you "want to" feel vibrant and happy. The song has a magical effect on any types of emotions that you may need in a certain situation.
6. The Tunnel:
The Tunnel is a nice, calm soul-jazz song harmonized with Zoe Gilby’s exquisite voice. The track starts with easy-going chords and a catchy melody. Shortly after Zoe’s impressive blends in the sound with a distinctive, unique melisma while some nice non-conventional chord progressions accompanying it. This interesting, catchy phrasing of Zoe’s voice and melody is the anchor and is widely spread throughout the song. One other exciting phrasing is the chorus part where diversified non-conventional chord progressions and well-written licks are combined with a chorus of Zoe’s different voices. While the jazz elements are mainly emphasized in plain melisma sections of Zoe’s singing, the tranquility, and serenity of the song come from the nice groove captured by Andy. While the transition between phrasings was more distinct and clear at the beginning of the track, the sound of the song evolves in which these sections blend in with each other and create a great whole approaching the end of the song. 7. Postcards:
"Postcards" start with a uniquely layered groove. The drums remind some tropical beats and the bass sounds mean. The vocal lines are delivered with great usage of staccato. The melody has a very strong flow that is joined by harmony parts as the song progresses. The disco-ish chorus is punchy. You can't help but bang your head and feast on the tempo. The chords are chosen wisely and the arrangement helps to bring out the best possible sound. Although being the shortest track in the album Postcards is one of the strongest thanks to its excellent writing. The sax solo, which starts around the 2 minute mark with a bass drop, is very well suiting and helps the musicians tell the story.
8. Smoke & Mirrors:
The last, and also the longest, track in the album, Smoke&Mirrors starts with a nice Andy’s nice bass introduction accompanied by a piano. This short section is interesting in a way that includes different and unorthodox styles. One of them is the polychordal approach to song composition which enhances the intro in a way that makes the intro nice and catchy. Zoe’s singing joins in this melody shortly after. Zoe’s singing is different in a way that it complies with the complex rhythmic structure more than the melody itself. After Zoe’s singing, a complete improvisation section starts. Andy has managed to create a great atmosphere of randomness and also harmony with his experiments on piano. Zoe again joins the intense section with her demanding, emphasized voice, again focused on rhythmic structures more than the melody itself. The sound continues to develop with interesting additions of melisma and melodic sections. Smoke & Mirrors finish leaving the listener satisfied, filled, and ready for Zoe’s demanding words: “Let me guide you.”
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