Charlson – Night Sounds – EP Review
This dude’s got a good thing goin’ on…I’ve spent a significant amount of time listening to Charlson’s new EP Night Sounds, which officially came out today. Us critics…we often have the inside scoop on LIFE…so I’ve been fortunate enough to have access to this record long before it was released – and I dig it! I also think that the majority of you will too…there’s a little something for everyone within this six song set.
You might find yourself enjoying the opening track – the “Night Sounds Overture” – which gives you a bit of a melodically-intense digital ride through a ninety-three second instrumental song. I certainly wouldn’t blame ya if you felt like turning this one up – it might be short (spoiler – it IS!), but it’s got all the right ingredients in the mix, and offers ya a substantially tasty treat for your ears. No joke folks – it’s the kind of song that hints at the depth you’ll find follows it…I might be wise-crackin’ a lil’ bit in my intro paragraphs here, but in all seriousness, you can immediately hear there’s something special brewing from the “Night Sounds Overture” without a doubt. You’d be hard pressed to find a better way to spend ninety-three seconds, I can promise ya that…and in general, it’s impressive to hear how much Charlson is able to morph & move this song as it builds from its slow beginning into an adventurous and lively cut.
“Night Sounds I” was also interesting to me right away…but largely for many different reasons than what we discover on that first track. I will be 100% real with ya, like I always am…I listen to a whole lot of music out there in this independent scene of ours, and half the time I was listening to “Night Sounds I” I was fairly convinced that Charlson needs a slight tune-up on his guitar, or that he was choosing some fairly uncommon chords to play it with. I never really came to a conclusion as to which it was…the chords sound familiar enough to me, but yeah…maybe I’m crazy…I felt like one of those tuning pegs just needed to be adjusted ever so slightly to get this track to where it’s meant to be. Anyhow. That kind of stuff is neither here nor there to me…easy enough to fix if it needs fixing at all – the important thing is that there are genuine ideas are present in the songwriting for an artist this early on into his career, and I’m happy to report that they are. I’m not going to go all ranting & raving about it…ultimately, I think that Charlson is going to look back on this track years down the road and feel like it definitely reflects his early work – but it’s also the kind of song that needs to be written in order to break through to the next ones. I think his vocals come out great…I think the guitar-playing does too despite some questionable tones…and the writing hits the mark. He’s got a decent verse on “Night Sounds I” – it’s tough to say that it’s going to be enough to excite the people out there…that’s gonna be examined on a case by case basis individually I think…all-in-all, it’s very much like something you’d imagine the sleepier side of R.E.M. mixed with the Cranberries would sound like, and then sung by the dude from Interpol, or Morrissey. Where I felt like Charlson got me onboard for sure, is that shift from verse to chorus…that’s where you hear the real potential that exists in this solo project. As desolate as it can be in the lyricism, the magic is there in the melody…and while I still believe Charlson is just on the verge of tapping directly into what is going to make this project great in the following years to come, “Night Sounds I” reveals that the right pieces are there, and gives us every reason to believe that he’s gonna find his way forward real quickly.
For example – “Night Sounds II” – this is straight-up amazing. Considering how weary and embattled the energy of “Night Sounds I” was only moments beforehand, to hear Charlson come out swinging for the fence on this second instrumental on his EP…was pretty much awe-inspiring y’all. You see? There’s not a mean bone in my body dear readers, dear friends…I just call things like I hear’em – and when you prove that you’re as creative and capable as Charlson does on “Night Sounds II” – I am 100% in your corner and ready to cheer. There’s simply nothing not to love about this track…it’s STUNNING, truly. The amount of detail within the melody, structure, and writing is well worth the price of admission, and the sounds you’ll find will easily captivate ya for all the right reasons. Whether it’s the powerful depth in the piano, the cleverness of adding in the guitar, or the keys you’ll find sprinkled in – there’s a whole smorgasbord of stuff to love about “Night Sounds II” and I’m completely confident you’ll find plenty to enjoy. It’s the kind of song that’ll honestly have you turning your head in a double-take – did the same dude that just put out “Night Sounds I” create “Night Sounds II?” You betcha, he did – that’s versatility! Insanely well-thought out and brilliantly well-played…every single time “Night Sounds II” came back on again in rotation over here, I was fully convinced I was dealing with a complete genius & music prodigy. It’s like Charlson is a one-man machine and/or orchestra on this track, and it’s straight-up mesmerizing.
Vocally, the comparison to Interpol simply gets stronger on “Night Sounds III” – but I’m like…talking about the BEST songs by Interpol that you’ve heard when it comes to this particular track. I’ve earned my stripes here…you’ve seen that I’ve pointed out where things could potentially improve, and you’ve already read much about the potential Charlson has…I’ve been as straight with ya as I always am…unbiased & objective as you know me to be. And it’s in pointing that out, that I’ve gotta say – I think there’s a great chance “Night Sounds III” is one of my favorite tracks from the year 2022…this song has it ALL & then some y’all. Truly – I think Charlson goes from good, to great, to even greater as this track builds into the memorable moment it becomes – and with the synth-based sweetness it starts out with, trust me…this dude had me at hello already. “Night Sounds III” was his to lose…but the grip on what makes this song special never waived & Charlson never lets up. Good rhythm in the verse & vocals, great melody in the music behind it all…”Night Sounds III” would have made a favorable impression, even if that’s all there was…but LISTEN to what happens at the 1:50 mark will ya? That’s the moment I can’t even describe…the real magic in music that no set of words is ever gonna do justice to. And the guitar tones that come rippin’ on through around the 2:25 mark? Freakin’ EXQUISITE y’all. Like – jaw dropping type-stuff, for real. It’s not even going to be everyone’s favorite moment of this song, and maybe it should be…but dammit, it should NOT be overlooked, because that spot is electrifyin!’ But just like I was tellin’ ya, Charlson finds a way to make this song even GREATER by the time it’s over – at this point, he’s still got about a two-minute stretch to go, and he loads that up with what would become a massive sing-along, lighters-up moment in time with a live audience from the stage, I assure ya. It’s endearing, enchanting, entertaining, engaging…and probably even other words that start with E that I’m not thinking of at the moment. Excellent! There’s one now! For real though – it’s all these things and more…to me, “Night Sounds III” showed a songwriting wisdom beyond the young man’s years on Earth – and if THIS is what Charlson is capable of…believe me y’all, he’s got everything he needs to make this music thing into a lifetime career, and a spectacularly bright future ahead of himself within this industry.
As IF we needed any MORE confirmation of all this awesomeness I’ve been tellin’ ya about, the aptly-titled “Night Sounds IV” (what – you thought Charlson would break the sequence NOW?) is phenomenal – full-stop. Like…for real…I’m blown away by this track & the scope of its ambition – this song is HUGE! I’ll put it to ya this way…at 7:20 in length, this one song plays like its own EP within the EP…like Inception, but EPception instead – you following me? And I’m not even going to argue that I love every single part of this song…honestly, I like some of them more than others…but I AM amazed at how brilliantly this whole cut is threaded so flawlessly together. If I was impressed by what Charlson could do before & the potential within this solo project, all I can tell ya is that “Night Sounds IV” solidified everything I was thinking to the nth degree. I dig the Alt-Rock inspired beginning…and I genuinely love the way this guy plays an electric guitar…the tones he’s been rockin’ with have been seriously badass to listen to, especially in the second-minute of this particular track. I like how the organ takes over, though I’ve never really been one for organ sounds…it fits here though…”Night Sounds IV” kind of has this like…Franz Ferdinand type of vibe, but with more commitment & intensity to it…more weight overall. The breakdown works…and I think most folks would assume that’s probably where this track would end, just past that four-minute mark – but HOLD ON cause we ain’t done yet! The following guitar part is alright…takes about another minute to get me a little more interested with something beyond the rhythm, and the vocals are…okay. I’ll admit, it’s not the strongest part of “Night Sounds IV” – BUT…it IS essential. Without this whole minute-plus that occurs before the final switch around the 5:50 mark, I don’t think the melodic payload would have been THIS on-target. I cannot say enough about this last part of “Night Sounds IV” – it has left me speechless…it’s freakishly breathtaking and beautiful. I think what I like best about it is the element of surprise too…like…you’d NEVER see this moment coming from where this song begins…it’s that far out of left-field, and that incredible to experience when you get there. My favorite vocals, my favorite melody, my favorite synths, my favorite SOUND…good gravy-boat lighthouse y’all…I am BLOWN AWAY by what Charlson has created here, and I wish this song would never stop! Once the violin came into play, I would have easily taken another ten minutes of the last ninety-seconds of “Night Sounds IV” – Charlson exceeds every one of your wildest expectations in the end of this song. It takes a whole lot of dedication & love of the craft to create a song with as much length & ambition as this track has…this dude should be seriously proud of the fact he pulled it all off.
And so there you have it! Nowhere else to go but down from there, so ya may as well include a demo, right? “Night Sounds (Demo)” comes last…a piano version of “Night Sounds I” – and it is indeed, just OK. I don’t think it would have been possible to out-do what Charlson just finished off “Night Sounds IV” with if I’m being real with ya…and ultimately, heck yeah, I would have advised him to cut the set-list right there on that repeat-inducing moment as opposed to the denouement we experience with this piano-led demo at the end. You (eight) regular readers know how I feel about including a song twice in one lineup, especially within a shorter set of songs…you’re always taking the risk of burning something out at a rate of 2:1 – and that’s usually the positive end of the scenario. In the case of a song that doesn’t quite measure up as strongly as the rest of the set, we get THAT experience twice instead…and I feel like that’s probably going to be the case here for most folks listening. I suppose I think that “Night Sounds (Demo)” is just a fraction stronger than the official version we heard earlier on in the set…but it’s hard to think that of all the tracks to appear twice, this was the choice…I’m just not sure it’s warranted. So that usually tells me that there’s something about “Night Sounds I” that Charlson himself connects with strongly…and just about every musician under the sun will tell ya that when that’s the case, it’s not usually gonna be the track that the people listening connect with as much at all. I don’t make the rules, I don’t know WHY that’s always the case, it just is…it’s a fact, ask any musician you know. I appreciate the song – I don’t know that I’m truly lovin’ it in either form, but I like it enough…the question for Charlson becomes, that if I’m outright FASCINATED by the highlights in EVERY other song but the one that appears twice – is liking something ‘enough’ going to BE enough? Here’s where I’ll take it all one step even further…I betcha I haven’t told Charlson a single thing in this review that he didn’t expect or already know himself…because we ALL know what the real magic of music sounds like at its finest – it’s unmistakable. So those moments that connected to me…the inarguable highlights…he knows each of those spots, because HE feels it too…and the more he taps into that, the better Charlson will become over time. No need for a dude like this to settle for good when he’s capable of being great at all times – but we do need to create those early tunes in our catalog to really know what the difference is later on.
In any event, Charlson is completely headed in the right direction – I’m stoked about what I’ve heard here on this EP overall, and I think I’m even more excited about the potential for where he can go next.
Find out more about Charlson from the official website at: https://charlsonmusic.com
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