Ete AhPing – It’s All Gonna Be Ok – Album Review
Somewhere in between when we reviewed Ete AhPing’s album You Don’t Fit In But You Belong in the summer of 2019, and nominating his incredible efforts to our annual top-ten list of the year, this guy was already hard at work creating songs for his next record. If you look back in his social media, you’ll find evidence from back in November that It’s All Gonna Be Ok was wrapping up and had a projected release date in January…originally. But just like all things in 2020, plans changed. Even after all of Ete’s enthusiasm about putting out his longest record to-date, the album went from a proposed thirteen tracks down to a tight nine, the release date got pushed back to March…and here we are.
Say what ya like about my seemingly never-ending positivity towards the independent music-scene, I like to believe that making my top-ten of the year is certainly an achievement. I’ve been yelling from the rooftops about how special Ete AhPing is to anyone & everyone that’ll listen to me rant…and I can’t even begin to express how stoked I was when I saw this new record pop into my inbox. To be entirely truthful, it really didn’t even take a full spin of his last album to know just how essential this artist would become to my playlists…some people are truly born with an undeniable gift & Ete AhPing is one of’em. I formed an instant attachment to the humble & sincere way this dude writes songs…hopefully you did too…if you haven’t found your way to Ete’s music, there’s still plenty of time – this guy has a huge future in front of him with virtually limitless possibilities. Every song on his new album will convince you of that – so grab yourself a seat on AhPing’s bandwagon and buckle up, because this guy is gonna go places.
“It’s All Gonna Be Okay” starts out in that blissful combination of sweet melody & melancholy that Ete is an absolute master of. Serving as an intro more or less, he sings the title in various ways to invite us into his new album and reassure us at the same time. It’s almost like the music-form of Robin Williams comforting Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting’s famous breakdown scene…and if we’re talking about a message that every one of us in the world could benefit from right now, it’s the reminder that AhPing has written into this first tune – “It’s All Gonna Be Okay.” After a thorough listen or two, you’ll know that this theme plays into each and every one of these songs on some level or another…this opening cut is the most direct, simple, and sweet way of communicating what many of these songs will, and kind of acts as the mantra that guides Ete through the course of the emotionally heavy content on this album. Weighing-in at just a minute & twenty seconds, you’ll be impressed by just how much “It’s All Gonna Be Ok” provides a summation of what you’re about to hear after you’ve eventually heard the full album – and as a first impression on the way into this new record, it eases you in to the lineup of songs with a fraction of what AhPing will go on to reveal; it’s got a fully stripped-down & isolated sound that feels like it’s perfectly representative of what we’re all saying in our heads to ourselves during this quarantine.
There are so many things about this guy’s music that I love that we’d be here until next week if I tried to list every single thing that makes me dig Ete’s tunes so much. Perhaps the best way I can put it, is that the guy literally makes me feel like I’ve somehow slipped into the sequel to Yesterday, and somehow I’ve just forgotten about all these amazing songs that used to exist, yet here they are anew via AhPing’s own efforts. But if you’ve seen that movie that should give you at least some sort of reference to what I’ve been saying all along – even though there’s no mistaking him borrowing a page from Brandon Flowers in the sound & tone of his vocals at the beginning of “Can’t Hide Your Light,” or that he finds similar Keane-like melodies brilliantly designed to melt your heart & stir your emotions like he will in the chorus, ultimately Ete is freakin’ BEATLES-level-amazing when it comes right down to it, no joke. Hearing this record expand from its humble promise at the very beginning with the tender & quaint comfort of “It’s All Gonna Be Okay” and become THIS colorful and stunning shortly afterwards on “Can’t Hide Your Light” is nothing short of remarkable and like the equivalent of crossing the Grand Canyon on foot when it comes to the distance between tracks one & two on this album. Listen to this dude stroll past that ninety seconds in STYLE will ya? Loving the added drama, instrumentation, and incredible color in the vocals & music of “Can’t Hide Your Light” – and how could you not? Listen to him hit the serenity & sincerity full-on as he heads into the third minute soaring on melody, bending guitar notes and all-out brilliant vocals…Ete leaves you wanting for nothing more than exactly what you hear. “Can’t Hide Your Light” is inspiring, uplifting, soothing, comforting…it’s all that & more – it’s a spectacular tune that not only can’t hide AhPing’s own fantastic light, it’s got the guy beaming freakin’ rainbows at us.
Look…I mean…”Can’t Hide Your Light” is a pretty damn epic tune by the time all is said & done; for a couple seconds, I wasn’t quite sure that “Where Is The End” was going to be able to hang with such an impressive standard set at the very beginning of this record. To be crystal clear, we’re talking about that first real spin through the album…and we’re talking about a really miniscule moment of questioning. Because of course, once you get to the chorus of “Where Is The End” and you’re just left speechless by Ete’s incredible writing all over again – I mean, what else can you do but sit here and marvel and such impressive material? He’s working in a real hybrid style on this third tune…reaching towards the borders of other genres outside of the Pop/Rock with a bit of alt-grit and electro-additions…kind of similar to how every once in a while you hear a band like Weezer color outside of the lines. Obviously all this works for AhPing…honestly what doesn’t? I’m not talking in hyperbole folks; he’s pretty much the gold-standard in songwriting and execution if you ask me. “Where Is The End” is arguably one of the more ambitious tunes when it comes to style/sound combinations…and I can fully understand if you might end up preferring one part of the song over another, that’s kind of human nature to begin with, and again, credit to a chorus that you couldn’t possibly take your ears off of. Comforting too…make sure you’re taking a good listen to the uplifting insight in the chorus of “Where Is The End” – Ete’s singing his truth out loud here, in fully relatable snapshots of emotions & thoughts we can all connect to. Right at the 1:10 mark…that’s where you really hear that magic of Ete’s writing come out shining in an incomparable way…that’s the specific moment on this record that turned my head every time like no other moment on this, or any other album for that matter – that’s the moment where you can’t help but recognize the stunningly well-crafted songwriting of Ete AhPing is on a whole other level than most artists or bands will ever get to experience in one lifetime. “Where Is The End” is a beautiful & bold reminder that tough times have to come to a halt at some point…that the clouds eventually part for the sun again after the rain…that our isolated feelings will once more find a crowd of support – at its core, this tune is one of the more hopeful songs on the record designed to lift us up from lyrics to sound.
If I did have to pin it down to a specific artist or band to compare this record to, this time around I’d probably be inclined to choose Keane overall. There’s such a noticeable grace and care in both their music and Ete’s, with similarly bold & memorable melodies that speak straight to your soul…that’s the kind of magic you’ll hear in even the tiniest of tunes like “There Is A Place For You Here,” and certainly within the more expanded ideas & sound you’ll find floating throughout the atmosphere of this album. I like the wide array of instrumentation he uses and the clear push to be creative he employs, even in the most subtle moments like “There Is A Place For You Here” – no detail gets overlooked. As a result, even in more bare-bones atmospheres like the title-track and this tune now, Ete ends up sounding wonderfully bold even in the most delicate atmospheres. Wonderfully well-executed once again, “There Is A Place For You Here” is like the equivalent of a lullaby made for adults, it’s that soothing. Just prior to the first minute, you’ll hear the full dose of this song’s soothing power wash over you in a beautiful wave of sound and vocal harmonies…and if you’re anything like me, you won’t want it to end. I could listen to this record all day long (and I have) and never get tired of it…even in the quietest moments like “There Is A Place For You Here” there is so much depth in this material that you can’t help but admire what Ete’s achieved on It’s All Gonna Be Ok. All-around, this is another sincerely top-shelf album.
Loving the way the bass brings us in to “Aire” and how the guitars choose to chime in along the way. That’s the kind of cleverness you can hear in bands like The Strokes, who often give their music that one extra tweak or two that has the hooks you’ll discover in their songs the ability to rival the vocals. “Aire” arguably even goes for a similarly dreamy sound as The Strokes at their most artistic & chill…though not so close to the sun that Ete would get burned by comparison. There’s just as much of a comparison that could be made to something like The Dandy Warhols at their most hazy, Fountains Of Wayne at their most sweet, or Spiritualized at their most atmospheric, Modest Mouse at their most expressive…and yet somehow, “Aire” is still all Ete AhPing and you couldn’t possibly want it to be anything more. It’s actually one of the longer cuts on the record, but you’d never know it really…AhPing locks perfectly into a mesmerizing moment with “Aire” and every time it finished, I felt like I was just getting into it; it keeps our attention so fixed when we listen that you don’t even realize time is still passing and there’s still a world out there somewhere with people doing things. Silly people. They should be sitting at home like I am, listening to Ete AhPing. Like, I’ve heard a lot of great tunes lately – my playlist is always full of’em – but if I had to pin down one artist that’s actually making me seriously enjoy this quarantine time we’re living in, it’s this guy. I hear a song like “Aire” and I just wanna live in it. If you could just somehow fill up a swimming pool with sound like this and go for a dip, you’d never get out, know what I mean? You want to cover yourself completely with the vibes of “Aire” and stay in this warm, comforting sound as long as you possibly can. I love the distance applied to the vocals…probably even more-so because everything still feels so close to the heart; a lot of the time, reverb laden tunes can potentially sound disinterested or too far removed…but not when AhPing uses it on this cut…it’s like you’re right there with him. I’d put this cut up there with the best on this record, though I suspect it’ll take a couple spins for most out there to come to that same conclusion…songs like “There Is A Place For You Here,” “Aire,” and “Waiting” are likely to be the unsung heroes on this album at first before people realize just how much strength they all subtly add to this full lineup of stellar tunes throughout It’s All Gonna Be Ok.
Whereas you hear a song like “I’m Coming Home” and you know you’re right at the heart of the magic without question. Full disclosure…I got called away from this review when I originally started writing it. This was several days ago now…not sure even what it was anymore, but I had basically pushed play, made a coffee, and then before even hearing a note went out to the backyard & fix the fence or walk my dog or something. When I came back, “I’m Coming Home” was actually the first song I had ended up hearing from It’s All Gonna Be Ok…and hearing that song instantly confirmed what I already knew – this album was going to be another amazing experience from Ete AhPing. After I finally got a chance to hear all the songs properly, of course I ended up being right…there’s not a bad song on this record or even one that would be threatened by the skip button. That brought me back to the posting I saw on Facebook long ago about how this record was originally going to be thirteen songs long; hearing how tight & cohesive this new album is at just a short list of nine for its official release is further confirmation of his professionalism if you ask me. Sure maybe there’s a story out there somewhere about a song that didn’t quite get mixed in time…maybe that’s a thing, even in a situation like this where an album’s release was pushed back a couple months – that COULD still be a thing that happened. But personally, I like to think it’s come down to true objectivity…that Ete has that amazing ability to stand back from his material, really examine, really listen, and really get to the heart of what worked out flawlessly without compromise. Maybe those four lost songs become B-sides…maybe they have another chance to be built on later down the road of AhPing’s career…maybe their time will never come, or maybe they were never as close to finished as he was hoping by the time this record came out – the point is that he had the vision & foresight to realize this stuff before the release of It’s All Gonna Be Ok, and make adjustments. That ability to self-edit…to show professional restraint…to not just put out every single song that’s been worked on ‘just because’ – let me tell ya folks…this is a skill that escapes 99.9% of the artists out there, and indeed another one of the tangible elements that makes Ete so rare in the way he approaches music. All this great stuff being said about the artist aside – “I’m Coming Home” is breathtaking and a true gem on an album full of’em…somehow, this tune still stands out amongst the rest for me. Listen to the way AhPing brings this one home will ya? I mean, it’s ALL incredible from the very first seconds to the end, but hearing him hit that 3:30 mark and cruise so flawlessly to the end of this song is by far one of the best experiences you can possibly provide your own ears with this year. “I’m Coming Home” is an absolutely beautiful tune and easily one of the best songs I’ve heard in 2020 so far. How could you get through this amazing adventure and feel otherwise? Are you REALLY going to try to tell me you heard the soulful & warm way he sings his way into the fourth minute and tell me that’s not like, one of the best moments in music you’ve heard this year too? The execution, time after time, is 100% staggering – Ete puts his heart & soul into every single moment we hear and it’s impossible to not notice his relentlessly impressive dedication to the craft. There’s a lot of great songs on this record – this might be the greatest of them all…it’s definitely a song I’d imagine will become a fan favorite at the very least, but I’d probably even be looking at single-potential here if I was Ete…it’d be a great gateway into this album.
It’s honestly a jaw-dropping record overall though…believe me, if it wasn’t, I’d tell ya, even with as much as I like Ete. When I hear how well ideas like “Waiting” come to life on It’s All Going To Be Ok…all I can think is how would anyone else out there hear this record any differently than I do personally? Don’t these songs connect to each and every one of us listening? I literally have a very hard time imagining a world where they don’t…the songs that Ete writes are the kind of universal tunes that every listener should love. “Waiting” is a great example of how his music works on several levels…because if I’m being entirely honest with ya, aside from the main chorus, the words & lyrics of this tune can be a bit tough to get to – but I’d imagine that’s by design. You see dear readers, dear friends, that’s the great thing about melody – we don’t need to catch every single word in order to feel it hit us in the heart, where melody really lives. Maybe you’ll catch more of what Ete has to say than others will when it comes to the actual words of “Waiting,” or maybe you won’t – regardless, the mesmerizing melody you’ll find written into this tune is bound to keep you completely captivated. You FEEL the vibe of this tune more than anything else, that’s what I’m sayin.’ AhPing will branch out a bit more when it comes to the effects & beats scattered throughout “Waiting” and create additional diversity & versatility for your ears to enjoy on this record…but I gotta hand it to the straight-up simple sweetness that the guitar adds to “Waiting” for the win overall. Between the sweetness in the guitar hooks and the gentle magic of the vocal melodies, this hypnotic track finds unique space of its own to truly shine on this record.
“Watching The Rain” was one of the most interesting cuts on this record to my ears on a composition level…it’s almost like a musical form of running in place. If you listen to this tune on the surface and the way Ete sings this one, you’d swear up & down you’re listening to a slow song…yet if you’re focusing on the bass or the drums, you’d want to get these players some oxygen so they don’t pass out from moving so quickly! In terms of contrast, this is a highlight example…”Watching The Rain” is about a hundred times more ambitious than it appears to be at first with its chilled-out demeanor being what we hear most prevalently – but make no mistake, Ete AhPing’s music is movin’ and groovin’ at the core of this cut. Of any song on the record, I could understand if this was the tune to stir up the most debate or potentially be the most polarizing…I’d be ready for a few people to think that perhaps Ete’s actually over-complicated this cut where the melody might not necessarily need it, or be served best by the rapid instrumentation surrounding the haunting stillness on the surface of this vibe. If anything, I might have occasionally gone back & forth on the presence of the piano in the melody and whether or not it took up too much of the space in comparison to the rest when it’s at its most intense, but that’s as close as I got to questioning anything about “Watching The Rain” personally. I think AhPing’s got the level courage required for the creativity he’s capable of…I don’t tend to question judgment like he possesses. He’ll go on to try a wide array of things throughout his career I’m sure…some will work perfectly, and just about everything else will still be well worth your time to listen…in fact, I’d completely guarantee it without a moment’s hesitation – that’s how much confidence I have in what Ete can do. The bottom line is that you can still hear him challenging himself as an artist to create incredible combinations in music & melody that we’ve yet to experience…maybe he’ll stumble hard at some point in time (though I sincerely doubt it), but the rewards of his efforts will be invaluable to his career as an artist. Dude continues to flex a genuine authenticity on “Watching The Rain” that shows how much of his heart he invests into every decision he makes as an artist and the passion he puts into every note that we hear.
The shorter cuts on this record have all been great…I wouldn’t dispute that at all. Though I would say this – I felt like “It’s All Gonna Be Okay” and “There Is A Place For You Here” were perfect in their length; and I don’t know if I could fully, 100% say I felt that way about the final track “You Are Not Alone.” Maybe I was panicking every time I reached the end of this record…maybe I felt that sting of feeling like I needed to like, do something around the house instead of sit & listen to music all day…maybe it felt like I was about to run out of Ete AhPing’s music for a second and each time “You Are Not Alone” came on I just wished it was about fifteen minutes longer because I never wanted this experience to end. Maybe it’s just another extremely amazing song on It’s All Gonna Be Ok and it’s as simple as that. Whatever it was, every time I heard this final tune I wanted a whole lot more of it…but that’s okay…that’s what the repeat button is (and certainly has been) for. And just like the last record this man put out, I’ll be using that function big-time on this new record as well…Ete AhPing has given us every reason to both listen and keep listening with the songs he’s got throughout It’s All Gonna Be Ok. Is it a better record than the last one was? Is it even fair to compare? I don’t know about fair, but it’s natural…and yes, ultimately, I think I would say that he’s managed to improve on what was already an extremely favorable opinion of his music…I think he’s taken his music to the next-level once again and I can’t think of a single song in this lineup that would have me feeling otherwise. “You Are Not Alone” is the perfect ending for an album like this with the messages & themes it contains…it’s that last reminder that It’s All Gonna Be Ok one way or the other, and that we’re all in this together. Establishing that point with additional vocals from a featured guest-star, they sing this last song unified together & connected…a full-compliment of vocal layers and massive drums, swirling strings, and evocative audibles, “You Are Not Alone” ends the album by making its final message to us all land on listening ears through powerful songwriting & sound.
Ete AhPing is a real gem in the music-scene right now. These are songs to be treasured, truly.
Find out more about Ete AhPing from his official page at Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/eteahpingmusic
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