Chaz Chambers – Coastal – Album Review
Always knew ya had it in ya bud, for the record.
Over the course of the past five years, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Chaz’s music through a variety of reviews as he tested the waters and made his way into the scene. Sometimes, as reviewers, we’re aware of where an artist is at in their timeline, sometimes we’re not…and sometimes it’s only in hindsight that we realize we were around for some of the earliest moments in an artist’s or band’s career. Looking all the way back to the first single I reviewed by Chambers called “Calming Pressures” from back in the day…I like to think I was able to spot the specialness in this guy. There’d be moments where later on where I loved what he came up with, like on the bulk of his Colored World EP – and there were moments where I’d go on to challenge his art & music at times, like in my review of his single “Grey (She Smiles)” along the way as well. But just like I’ve pointed out here at the beginning, no matter what’s ever been written or said or discussed, the bottom line is, I’ve always believed in Chaz Chambers, for the record – and that’s precisely what I mean; here on his official debut album, he’s nailed it 100%.
Nailed it so hard in fact, that I’d challenge any set of ears and eyes to go back over the reviews I’ve written on Chaz’s music in the past, to listen to those old tunes pre-Coastal, and then try to tell me you don’t hear the evolution in this dude’s art & the fact that this record has every quick & corner rounded out flawlessly! Because that’s just the thing folks…this is one of my favorite kind of reviews I get to write; there’s no need to convince you or try to sell you in words on music that easily sells itself to ya as this does. What Chaz Chambers has created on Coastal is massively inspired from the lefts to the rights. It’s impeccably mixed…it’s imaginative…it’s ambitious…and it’s absolutely brought out the best in him. Any set of ears upon a functioning head can hear that – I promise ya.
I listen to an album like this and just smile a truly satisfied smile in knowing there wouldn’t have been another thing that Chaz could have done to make it any better than Coastal has already come out.
While an album like this certainly forces the consistent Top-40 palette of the masses to consider getting something different out of the music they listen to altogether, for the rest of us, this record should get a HUGE green light immediately and instantly be added upon your playlists – yes, I’m that serious. If you like a combination of artistically ambitious sound, style, sincerity, and limitless possibility – and all in one experienced maximized to its complete potential…then hey, chances are, you’ll love Coastal like I did…AND…we can probably maybe even be slightly friends one day. I don’t want to get anyone too hopeful, being a curmudgeon & all…but if you like what you hear on this album and you see an open stool at the bar beside me one day, feel free to sit right down and I’ll talk your ears off about Coastal. He’s truly outdone himself in every way I can conceive, and absolutely blown me away with the results.
I thought so many things as the album started with “Sea.” I was immediately impressed by the sound & direction that Chaz had chosen this time around, right from the ambient waters of its opening to the cymbals splashing us into the beginning as we wade into “Sea.” I listened to the immaculate distance created in the production and the glorious space & clarity everything had. I even thought to myself – “Well Chaz, I wish ya the best of luck my brother – because HOW is it gonna get BETTER than this?” as the song played on. And while I won’t lie and say I didn’t retain a particular affinity for this opening track after spinning this album relentlessly throughout the week – I was more that stoked to find out that, indeed, this experience does continually get better. Listening to this whole album start to finish is practically the ONLY way to go about it…I’d push play, “Sea” would start, and I’d basically clear my schedule. Not even any typing like I am right now – this is a completely different day I’m on at this point in time – in my first five or ten listens through Coastal, that is literally ALL I did…I sat & listened, captivated, spellbound, and charmed right outta my socks. The musicianship & ideas are outstanding to begin with – like, listening to Chaz’s steady hits on the drums and the professional control he puts on display was worth the price of admission in itself – and without a word, instrumentally, he starts Coastal on a glorious path to victory, set by navigating the “Sea” with its hopeful possibility on the horizon, absolutely wonderful uplifting energy, and all with sincerity & passion no lyrics could ever fully capture. Mesmerizing – truly. You add in the spectacular guitars and the peak of the intensity on “Sea” as it reaches into the third minute, expands, and blossoms right there in front of your ears – and come on folks…believe me…I won’t be the only one to hear just how incredible this moment is, that I can tell ya.
The SOUL and HEART that fuels this record is undeniable – and if you didn’t already hear it on the first instrumental cut, you’ll hear it in the “Hey”-hooks of the second cut “Walls” and how they immediately flood your senses with a feeling like you just wanna be a part of this moment, somehow, however you can. Considering this has already been recorded & all, chances are that means singing along with Chaz and the crew of surrounding all-stars he’s enlisted to make all this magic happens – and again, if you’re feeling this like I have been, you’ll be at the top of your lungs loud & proud with every step of this cut along the way. Guest-star Lindiana Murphy takes on a main vocal role in duet with Chaz – and together they’re pure audio gold…there is such invitational, warm, and blissful sound emanating from every pore of your speakers when it comes to “Walls” that it’s straight-up impossible to ignore. The instrumentation boasts a phenomenal spectrum of sound that includes congas, violins, trumpets, piano – and parts of this cut even venture into multi-lingual terrain, giving “Walls” an even bigger depth & dimension to its overall character, and fuels the energy of this song’s magnificently accessible vibes. The official video you’ll see supporting “Walls” that Chaz has created gives this track an even bigger layer of meaning to it…brilliantly contrasting the beauty that can be found in the art on “Walls” from all over the place, pitted directly alongside the “Walls” we’ve put up as barriers to foolishly create imaginary borders that continually threaten to keep us divided. You just can’t lose when it comes to how well executed this song is from start to end; including the video, “Walls” fast becomes the kind of song that resonates deep inside of us all…like the anthem of good in your heart has just been echoed right back at ya, booming proudly through your speakers. “Walls” audibly sounds like what real light & love accomplish.
The closest comparison folks are likely to make out there is going to be to Bon Iver, and that’s fairly justified in terms of the execution, approach, and production when it comes right down to it – but as fans of BI would certainly know, that’s an indication of pure quality. You’ll hear the influence show up a bit more clearly on a cut like “Only” – but this is by no means implies this song doesn’t belong to this album just as much as any other on the lineup. Every cut on this record is a perfect fit! And the flow of the songs from start to finish is equally on-point. Listening to the depth in the low-end bass rumbling through the core of “Only,” the stunning vocals of guest-star Kristen Michelle Wilson, and the genuinely supreme beats Chaz has been laying down from the drum throne…it’s just impossible to hear anything other than how this all stacks up to complete & total brilliance, full-stop. From the sweet guitars that bring a rubbery bend to the melody capable of melting the heart, to the pure compelling songwriting at work throughout “Only” – you’ve really gotta admire just how BIG these ideas are, and how brilliantly executed everything is. Like…listen to this tune surround you in warmth as it heads towards the 2:30 mark…listen to the angelic presence that Wilson’s vocals bring, and how well she compliments the multitude of voices appearing along with her, & of course, vice-versa. “Only” is like what dreaming out loud sounds like…the aura and spirit in this one song alone is powerful enough to rejuvenate your soul.
The serene sparkle & shimmer of “Submerged” will garner no complaints from yours truly right here either. As you plunge underneath the surface of this song, you’re immersed in beautiful guitars ringing out sweetly around ya, joined soon after by an immaculately steady & controlled shuffle from Chaz on the drums. The dude does so many things right on this record that I could write for days about all I love about Coastal – but I gotta give it up to the drum-clinic he’s putting on in the background of “Submerged” and give the man credit where credit is severely due – I love the way Chaz plays this cut. Once you swim through the sweetness that supplies its first two minutes, “Submerged” makes a decisive switch into more intense & serious sound – and that’s when you really wanna be paying close attention to what Chambers is rockin’ from the kit back there. Not that you shouldn’t have been beforehand mind you – all I’m saying is that you can audibly hear the mastery of his main instrument and the professional grip he’s truly got in every hit he lays down – it’s remarkable. While “Submerged” might arguably make for a more quaint or low-key moment in the context of the record overall, I didn’t feel like it was one iota less engaging than any of the rest of this awesomeness occurring throughout Coastal. Every bit as essential to provide a quick moment of beautiful respite & reprieve…you’ll glide along with the blissful beginning and definitely stick around as this cut transitions, morphs, and dives deeper into its design.
I mean…look…I am willing to acknowledge that this is by no means any kind of typical record – but I doubt I’ll ever concede that this isn’t exactly what you should be looking for in terms of diversity in the music you listen to, if only for a spin or two, just to broaden your own horizons and open the doors of opportunity to what the experience can truly be, other than just another great sing along to fill the time in between home and the 9-5. I listen to a track like “Eyla” and its spectacularly rhythmic percussion falling like rain in the background, the extraordinary richness of the guitar & bass tones – the whole song is fully loaded with fascinating sound that really should have no problem whatsoever retaining your interest. Because that’s exactly what this is – it’s interesting – and in a great way. Not the ‘interesting’ that comes along with a quizzical expression, lord no – this is interesting in the truest sense of the word – your ears will want to stick with every moment of “Eyla,” if only for the fact that they’ve likely never heard anything quite completely like it at all. The uniqueness in this song, and upon this record at-large, is one of its most massively advantages, and it never lets up. “Eyla” is another wonderfully sensory experience that quickly burrows itself into your soul and instantly feels like it belonged there all along. The closest comparison you might make is probably to something along the lines of Morning Teleportation…but way less frantic & scattered by country miles…the chill of “Eyla” offers a similarly awesome range of colorful sound, but keeps its charming demeanor extremely delicate and inviting.
Listen to the space…listen to how it plays such a mesmerizing role in the patient way the structure of “Baila” develops…the gorgeous guitars…the atmospheric elements of the background, and the stellar lead of the flute…that continually impressive punch in the mix on Chambers’ drums…it’s all amazing. By the time I get to “Baila,” I tell ya folks…I get so locked right into the core of the beauty in this tune, that even though we’ve just ticked by the submission deadline on this year’s quest for our Best New Sound, I certainly wouldn’t at all be surprised to show this up on our next one, surviving what’s assuredly to be another great year filled with independent tunes. So there ya have it folks…I never make any promises, and I’d be insane to this early on into next year’s list – but believe me when I say, Chaz Chambers has immediately set the standard incredibly high for the rest out there to live up to…if they can. Coastal is nothing short of brilliant track-after-track – and the gentle nature & soul-soothing sound of “Baila” is just as much confirmation of that as any other selection you could make from this record would be. I can recognize that there’s likely more of a battle to be had on behalf of more chilled out instrumentals like “Submerged” or “Baila” in comparison to the livelier cuts on this same record perhaps…but perhaps not as well – in my heart of hearts, I like to think everything on this album stands a chance of making a memorable impact on listening ears across the world. What you’ll hear on Coastal is universal in terms of its accessibility…these are the sounds that dream are made of – and who could resist such a thing? Like a lullaby for people of all ages, the exquisite & graceful atmosphere created by Chambers and his crew on “Baila” is impeccably well-designed, and executed as professionally as can possibly be done.
To me, the most noticeably different vibes on this entire record come through on “Hopeful” – and nope, I’m not opposed to them either. It’s just enough of a fit to make this particular lineup this time around – but it is very much right on the fringe when it comes to comparing it to the other tracks upon Coastal. All that being said, you can look at this from the complete opposite side of the coin as well, and you’d likely conclude that “Hopeful” is THE statement track to be found on the whole album – and I probably wouldn’t argue against ya. I look at lines like “I wanna feel, the fire of my passion as I did, when I was younger” and the overall nostalgic way this lyricism works on such a brilliantly internal but highly relatable level…and even I can be convinced this should be up there with the best of the best on this album in terms of songwriting & atmosphere. For a song called “Hopeful” – it does take a more complicated route to getting to the heart of its concept…but that’s what also allows for the real payoff to occur in the throes of its chorus. You kind of float along in the haze of what seems somewhat forlorn, distant, and despairing for a whole on “Hopeful” before you discover its uplifting strength – to me that was highly effective in the storytelling sense of a song, but I could also understand if listeners felt like Chaz takes a turn right into the heart of seriousness when it comes to the sound of this tune as well. Kind of like a chilled-out, early Pink Floyd-ish type approach to “Hopeful” before you reach its colorful chorus…I think you get an incredible mix of contrasting thoughts, feelings, and emotions on display that makes this track really stand out in the lineup of Coastal and connect for the weight it both creates, and then lifts right off your shoulders. Conceptually, you gotta dig it if you ask me – the chorus of “Hopeful” exemplifies the feeling that the word itself implies and should invoke inside of every one of us listening.
There is perhaps no better song to fully represent the journey that Chaz Chambers has been on in creating this album than “Rio” will provide ya with. If you look at the incredible series of videos he’s put out to support this record, you’ll even find a making-of featurette on this song, which will reveal Chaz in action directly as he makes his trek all the way from the US where he’s based, to Trinidad in Cuba. So just in case anyone out there was wondering where the authentic cultural sound this whole album exudes has been coming from – rest assured, it’s as genuine as it gets, collected from real-life experiences and Chaz out there with his backpack & instruments, uniting the world on his path, through music. You might recall this melody from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? – or you might be familiar with it as a hymn called “Down To The River” or “The Good Old Way” – one way or the other, or maybe just echoing from a distant memory in your mind, you’ll likely feel like you can remember this song, long before you heard it here on Coastal…and of course, it’s likely you have. With an amazing array of talented voices authentic to the region, known as Las Tonadas Trinitarias – together with Chaz and the rest of this talented crew of musical cohorts, they lift up your spirits fantastically one last time before the end of Coastal with this gospel-esque final cut. “Rio” makes for the conclusive & beautiful ending this entire experience deserved – this is such a memorable record y’all, I couldn’t even begin to express it, even despite all I’ve attempted to write in my enthusiastic support of all I’ve heard here. THIS is the record I’ve always believed Chaz Chambers was more than capable of creating, and verifiable proof he’s capable of unifying people from far & wide through the power, magic, and melody of music.
Well done Chaz, well done. There’s not a single second of Coastal I’d even think to remotely change.
Find out more about Chaz Chambers at his official website at: https://chazchambers.com
What kind of fun are we having next and who are we having it with? Need a video/audio post? Or how about an interview? Find a list of what we do at sleepingbagstudios and join the thousands of bands & artists we’ve featured by clicking here!