Ankur – Shades

 Ankur – Shades

Ankur – Shades – EP Review

As I was checking out this new EP from versatile artist/rapper/singer Ankur out of Sydney, Australia, I realized that I’ve always cherished my relationship to the music from that region of the world…but that aside from the ultra-aggressive rhymes of BIG KIDD, the vast majority of my experience with it has been fairly based in Rock, Pop, & Folk.  So…I mean…it’s kind of nice to not have the speakers yelling at me this time around…Ankur’s got a decidedly more friendly Hip-Hop/Indie-Pop vibe goin’ on anyhow, as opposed to hard thuggin’ Rap.  There’s an uplifting element in the sound of Ankur’s music & lyrics…and the honesty of an artist that’s willing to share himself with the world through sincere melodies & words that mean something.

“Shades” starts the EP on fairly accessible terrain, with a beat & hooks that are catchy, and a flow that rolls smoothly throughout the first impression of Ankur’s new record.  It’s pretty chill ultimately, “Shades” isn’t obnoxious or in your face at all…it just kind of cruises along to its full potential and delivers a pleasant vibe through the speakers, contrasted by the personal details & experiences of Ankur as he relates the different moods & modes that life shifts through.  There’s good energy in the bounce of the music and snap of the beat, the emcee in question makes his presence known with a confident performance and insightful lyricism that’s self-reflective but quite universally relatable as well.  You’ll find that’s one of Ankur’s main assets…the ability to articulate a lot of the struggles, emotions, thoughts, and feelings that we all share & experience…as a result, you kind of feel like you’re living many of the scenarios he’ll rap & sing about on “Shades” and in most, if not all, of the tracks to follow after it.  Solid rhythm & flow on the mic with a humble narrative in the lyrics that helps us get to know this emcee on a personal-level the more that he raps – and it’s moves like this that’ll pay off for Ankur in the long run.  I’ve listened to the record several times at this point…I know that there are stronger tunes to follow, but this is certainly a great first impression…what I like most about this first tune is that it’s a complete indication of just how much he personally invests himself into his material & can relate his thoughts.

You might not realize it at first, but after a few spins, I think there’s an argument to be made that this EP continues to get stronger as it plays on in many ways.  Ankur makes a great decision early on in expanding the sound by adding in the vocals of Ruth Groenbech-Dam into “Stay Or Leave” to add a different dimension to the song & to the record – and she sounds fantastic in the dreamy swirl of the chorus & hooks on this second tune.  Also a great track to have a female voice representing powerfully on as well – because ultimately, the emotions & ideas expressed in this track could have come from either perspective in this tale of push/pull love that Ankur’s relating.  You know what I mean?  Chances are when one person in a relationship is feeling the struggle between choosing whether to “Stay Or Leave” – the other person is quite often feeling the exact same way…could be for entirely different reasons mind you, but generally speaking, it’s a shared experience but a silent one because usually at that point, communication has begun to break down as well.  So in many ways, the thoughts of one are the thoughts of two when it comes to relationships, and I think that Ankur has allowed this song to venture into clever & complex territory in terms of how “Stay Or Leave” examines the struggles of love.  There’s a heavy melancholy that hangs in the atmosphere of this tune that you can’t quite shake off – and chances are, that’s because at some point or another along the way, you can relate to this tune.  If you somehow don’t feel that weight of emotion in this tune or you just don’t get it at all – then CONGRATS ON YOUR LIFE OF SUNSHINE & RAINBOWS WITH ALL THE PRETTY THINGS – “Stay Or Leave” is for the real people out there that understand even the best of times still come with many questions.  Smartly thought-out from beginning to end with powerful execution…there are harsh realities on display, but many that we understand all-too-well…love the focus & the writing on this cut, Ruth is all-awesomeness, and Ankur’s got a ton of insightfully emotional lines hitting the mark hard on “Stay Or Leave.”

“Last In Line” has the advantage of a really killer bass-led groove and a genuinely shimmering sound with the surrounding guitars, creating all kinds of hooks in the music that have a ton of crossover appeal.  In general, I’d say Ankur crosses that threshold here pretty earnestly; it’s still a Hip-Hop based tune at the end of the day for sure, but with the endearing Indie-Pop hooks, spirit, and attitude breaking through so brightly in this vibe, I think a cut like “Last In Line” has that magic ability required to pull people in from all sides of the spectrum & surrounding genres.  Ankur wastes no time in putting them out there too – “Last In Line” begins with them right up at the front before heading into the first verse.  Real credit to Rich Mammoliti as well too…dude produced and mixed this record with a master’s touch – LISTEN to the clarity & riffs that come from the bass throughout this album & that alone should tell your ears all they need to know, but all-around, his mix is seriously on-point & total pro.  The rhythm & groove of “Last In Line” adds an inspired energy into the music while Ankur relates that all-too-familiar feeling of being cut out for something special & trying to find your way to it in life; that feeling that you’re destined for more…just unsure of exactly what ‘more’ will end up being – you know the feeling I’m talking about.  While the first couple cuts on this EP lean towards more complex & weighty ideas/sounds, “Last In Line” marks a shift in the record that sees the mid-section raise the stakes track-after-track, creating memorable hooks that are guaranteed to get the repeat treatment.  Great imagery in the words on this tune and Ankur takes on several subjects from our social-media tendencies to what does/doesn’t hold us back in life…but also ultimately, how important it is to keep roaming this planet til ya find where you truly belong.

I think the dude deserves a lot of credit for just how versatile he really is as an artist, but also for how fairly balanced his skillset is.  I hear a song like “Blind Side” and I’m almost surprised that Ankur goes for the Hip-Hop half of his music at all when his Pop melodies like this hit the mark on target with such accuracy.  That speaks a lot to the genuine love that Ankur has for the genre itself…there’s no doubt he’s a massive Hip-Hop fan…and ultimately, the dude’s got competent bars that reveal much capability…maybe drags the occasional syllable one way or the other to match that metering & flow, but for the most part, he’s right where he wants to be and there’s a smoothness that he brings to the mic.  That being said, consistently, track after track…as good as any of the Rap parts might be, it’s these hooks that are continually making that memorable impact on us as listeners; I’d never say toss the rappin’ – but it is also equally important to recognize what’s really working and what the people will hear.  That being said…I think that the words he’s written into the rhymes of this cut are easy some of the best you’ll find on this record, and I have no doubt that the hooks you’ll find in the chorus are the most bulletproof you’ll hear.  Honestly not sure how I feel about the bridges in some of these tunes and how they’re coming out…I kind of felt that way when listening to “Last In Line” too; it’s a hard comment to make, because ultimately I really appreciate the fact that there IS one to begin with – it’s the kind of move in modern-day songwriting that at least confirms the artist/band you’re listening to is likely working at least 10% harder than the rest out there sticking with a simple verse/chorus/verse.  With a bridge being so scarce typically in any genre nowadays, let alone found in a Hip-Hop song – I’ll admit, it’s something that may/may-not work in his favor when it comes to keeping that flow of the song as smooth as can be & not shifting us too far away or too far out of what keeps us captivated as we listen.  I suppose I’m probably just playing devil’s advocate here and tossing out things for Ankur to consider in the future…when it comes right down to it, the hooks of “Blind Side” are so sincere, so strong, and so well-written that I’ll take’em however I can get’em…I’m completely addicted to this song.  Love that bass in the hook with the melody he’s got and the mix on the vocals…everything there works to full potential; not a doubt in my mind that this is one of the strongest hooks in any song that I’ve heard this year.

In listening to “Blind Side” and “Prove” back-to-back, I think Ankur’s found his most accessible cuts.  In fact, I think he’s earned himself a whole genre of his own, hasn’t he?  He should call this Hip-Pop – his own brand, his own style & sound…he’s got this; as per the standard here at SBS, he’s welcome to take that idea as far as he wants to run with it and I’ll eagerly await my cheque for 10% of the haul in the mail.  “Prove” has another set of excellent lyrics with an uplifting & inspiring vibe encouraging each of us to go after our potential and realize the greatness we have inside us – and yep, I dig stuff like this.  I think songs like this are important on a social-level for people all around the globe, but I also think that tracks like this also really reveal the heart of the artist behind the words.  Face facts…if your tracks are all about murder & mayhem, you’re probably not taking a time-out to preach positivity to the people, you feel me?  A lot of Ankur’s record shows that commitment to evolution, whether that’s personally as an artist or as a society on the whole – and I think that’s an honorable way to use the platform he has…he just wouldn’t use it that way unless he really believed this stuff, know what I mean?  Big hooks in the music, big messages in the lyrics, big performance from Ankur, who steps up to the mic and puts the heart into this tune through both his rap & singing in equally sweet-intentioned doses.  The bass gets a break on “Prove” for a moment, allowing the piano to take the lead here in the melody alongside a crisp beat that stokes & supplies this uplifting track with the pep in its step.  Strong tune for Ankur once again, definitely one that’s worth considering for single-status to pull the people into this record.

“Down This Road” seems to end the EP on a more matured vibe, with real control over the emotions on display.  Acceptance, if you will, that Ankur will face adversity along his journey and obstacles of all kinds – but that he’ll find a way to rise above it all in pursuit of his destiny & dreams.  The guitars have excellent tone on them in this tune…and I felt like the lines that featured the actual title of this track were some of the strongest on this record in terms of how Ankur chooses to sing them.  I do think that there’s a bit of seriousness that runs through “Down This Road” that shifts the direction of sound away from what’s worked so well in the more playful vibes of tracks like “Blind Side” or “Prove” right before it – but I do appreciate that he’s putting yet another dimension of his sound out there and adding more depth to this experience by having “Down This Road” end this EP.  There’s kind of a hypnotic & mesmerizing flow that takes over the atmosphere of this final cut through the combination of its vocals & music…and ultimately, it’s a good tune as well; probably a bit closer to the Rock-side of Ankur’s sound than any of the others you’ll find on Shades, which might explain why it seems so decidedly different from the rest.  All-in-all though, I’m certainly not complaining, not about “Down This Road” and not about any of these other tunes either – I think Ankur has shown an impressive amount of heart, talent, and a genuine desire to express himself while connecting to others at the same time.  That’s gonna lead him to one seriously supportive and dedicated fan-base – and an artist like this with the pure intentions he’s got truly deserves to have that for the effort & sincerity he puts into his music.

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