Ete AhPing – You Don’t Fit In But You Belong – Album Review
There are a great many things that’ll clue a regular music-review in as to whether or not they’re about to be in for something they enjoy whenever they push play on a brand-new record if you’re looking in the right places. For myself personally, when it came to the music of Ete AhPing, he pretty much had me at hello – I was absolutely in love with the title of the record long before I’d even had a chance to look him up or have a listen to the songs…just something about the way that phrasing could potentially set the entire tone caught my attention. Then by the time I get a chance to dive into the online details in an effort to find out more about what AhPing is all about, I’m already into the first song “For The First Time” and loving it while I read that Death Cab For Cutie is listed first in the influences section of Ete’s page at Facebook. While these two things alone between the title and the influence of sound would be more than enough to pique my curiosity…I ended up reading the biography as well of course, and discovered that bands like Jimmy Eat World, The Killers, and Radiohead were mentioned along with artists like Roy Orbison and Morrissey – music we also shared a common love for. I’ve long forgotten what it’s like to listen to music without being able to hear & see the signs that can come along with it – all of these tiny details online about Ete AhPing already confirmed that I’d be in for an album I’d love.
So that’s where Ete AhPing is at…the battle of You Don’t Fit In But You Belong is his for the winning…if these details & influences all stack up to what I think they will, we’re in for something great.
With a quaint acoustic opening, “For The First Time” starts the experience, immediately displaying a beautifully humble & sweet sound in Ete’s music. Perfect opening song when you listen to the record in-full…you’ll find this absolutely hits the mark in every way, revealing just a bit about what you’ll love on You Don’t Fit In But You Belong without giving it all away at once – AhPing goes low-key & subtle to start this album, welcoming you in. That being said, you’ll notice that, even for all its sweetened acoustic sound sparkling – towards the end of the vocals, you’ll hear Ete add more kick to the performance to get the full meaning & emotion into the words; it’ll be one of the first really insightful matches you’ll find on this record when it comes to pairing the energy of his singing to the power of his words. All-around, he’s got a genuinely inviting sound working well in his favor on “For The First Time,” providing you with that good-good Indie-Pop-style lyrical imagery & internal thought-process that comes hand-in-hand with the genre – AhPing immediately gets you invested in this record through the remarkably humble, honest, and real way this initial tune plays on. Proving that a guitar & a great idea can take you a long, long way – “For The First Time” is a delicate but strong opening that instantly shows Ete’s gift’s as a songwriter & penchant for melodies that completely hit the mark for the pure sincerity.
Now…I don’t want to accuse AhPing of being downright CRUEL…because we’re just meeting him for the first time here musically…and honestly, he seems like a really nice guy – but…BUT! How on earth does someone go and create the Pop-inspired awesomeness on “I Just Wanna Feel Loved” and then SOMEHOW come to the conclusion that, ohhhhhhh…sure less than two-minutes will be more than enough? You kidding me Ete? I’d take another twenty minutes of this tune – I love it. It’s like a perfect hybrid between The Beatles and The Killers. Maybe even a little bit of something like Fountains Of Wayne in there too for good measure, just due to the pure Pop-perfection in such a short timeframe. You’ll hear The Killers in the verses, the other two comparisons mainly in the chorus – and what you’ll definitely hear is a song you can’t get enough of in the sweet sounds of “I Just Wanna Feel Loved.” Spots where he’ll twist & transition the melody just that one step further from good to great like how Ete exits the chorus…these are really smart decisions in his songwriting & performances, but also ones that reveal he’s exploring these melodies, even as short as this one is, for all they have to offer us. It IS unimaginably short though…I ain’t gonna lie, if it wasn’t for the fact that I could push repeat as many times as I want to over here on this side of the screen, I’d probably be full-on freakin’ out right now. Like I’m old enough to still remember (and fear!) the days of radio where you’d hear a song you loved once and maybe not hear it again for a week, or maybe ever! Imagine that will ya? That’d be a crime when it comes to a tune like this one; it might be a twist on a sound & style that we know & love in many ways – but there’s zero argument to be made against the incredible results that occur – Ete is flawless Pop-Indie fun & sincerity as one on “I Just Wanna Feel Loved” – huge (short) highlight early on!
So…obviously all things are on the right path here – it’s clear that Ete is capable of creating solid tunes. That being said…there’s always a moment when you’re listening to a new artist or band – or at least the right ones – where you’ll hear a defining song that reveals the real heart of a project revealed even more…especially on that first spin or two through an album. I hear the moment…that specialness I’m looking to confirm, right there in “You Put Your Arms Around Me” – this is where you really start to appreciate AhPing’s beautifully unique skills for creating melodies that connect right to the hearts & minds of those listening…not just my own, but everyone out there. Featuring guest-star Gussie – a track like “You Put Your Arms Around Me” shows the hybrid songwriting skills of Ete AhPing in a truly beautiful light…it’s got a sweetness that could rival what you’d find on the first James Iha solo record and a depth in the execution & twists in the sound that reveal smart moves being made to these Pop songs like you’d find on something like The Bends by Radiohead. Essentially, there’s always something more underneath the surface of the sparkling sweetness when it comes to the music Ete’s making – either lyrically, or through the backing vocals, or the sound of the song itself, you’ll always find there’s more going on than what you might assume at first. It’s a huge part of what creates such extraordinary repeat-value in a record like this one – you’ll absolutely want to come back to songs like “You Put Your Arms Around Me” to absorb the many dimensions & directions a diverse idea & melody like this has.
I’d probably challenge that “Ghosts” swings closer to another influence…this one unlisted, but I think I can hear it here…and that’s Keane. Especially when we’re talking about the verses of this tune…it kind of has that same level of sweetness, charm, and appeal you find in a song like “Somewhere Only We Know,” though of course, we’re talking about completely different end results in the overall structure. Maybe even a bit of the less-wild-more-melodic aspects of Modest Mouse could be included in the comparison to this tune as well. Bottom line is, the layers-upon-layers of sonic awesomeness run rampant throughout this quaint & welcoming cut – and at the end of the day, you’re likely to find “Ghosts” becomes one of the most memorable songs on the entire album. It echoes that sincerity & seriousness you’d find in Death Cab’s music and dives deep into the core concept of the album by even using the title as a hook in the finale of this chorus/finale. “Ghosts” features incredible guitars in the distance behind the music, and a stunning cast of featured guests & additional talents in the mix via J-schultz, C-lee, and Sue; I don’t know exactly who is responsible for what, but I can tell ya that the collaboration between them all creates a significant & memorable highlight on You Don’t Fit In But You Belong. Everything from the guest-star verses, the background shouts, or the way they harmonize, all completely contributes to a sensory song that’ll speak right to the core of your soul. Maybe you’ve felt like Ete describes feeling in “Ghosts” – maybe you connect to the melody – maybe you dig the musicianship or the collaborative aspect of this tune – one way or the other, “Ghosts” will get ya.
“The Battle (Everything’s Gonna Be Aight)” makes stunning use of pacing & phrasing to make its magic. Well…that and a whole lot of sunshine & positivity infiltrating the heartbeat of this tune. Give this guy some real credit for what he accomplishes…the uplifting emotion and honesty you’ll find in songs like “The Battle (Everything’s Gonna Be Aight)” is incredible really…highly expressive, relatable, and real. And perhaps above all things when it comes to the listening aspect, insanely catchy as well; the hooks of the chorus on this cut are quite likely some of the strongest you’ll find on the entire album. While I wouldn’t normally suggest that a mid-tempo tune makes that jump to being a single…there’s so much allure & appealing sound radiating from every pore of this song that it’s also kind of hard to ignore just how much potential reach a moment like this could have. “The Battle (Everything’s Gonna Be Aight)” is as complete of an idea as complete can possibly be – the execution is stunning, focused, and played with real heart you can hear. Considering that what you’re hearing on You Don’t Fit In But You Belong is all part of an even larger 30+ song record – essentially on his own from the ground-up for the entire process with the exception of the guest-stars and final mixing/mastering – everything you’ll hear is all from the mind & musicianship of Ete AhPing…and what he’s accomplished certainly deserves a high five & a fist bump of confirmation – he’s crushing the songs on this record from beginning to end. Bonus points for the upbeat bouncing bass-lines you’ll find on “The Battle (Everything’s Gonna Be Aight)” too.
Depending on which site you view the next song on, it’s either called “Sew” (Spotify) or “seW” (Bandcamp) – I couldn’t honestly tell ya if the placement of the capital letter makes a difference or not, it’s just an observation. You know me…I see the details even if I don’t understand’em all, same as I hear’em in the music too. What I can tell ya is, “Sew” (clearly I’m listening at Spotify) has brilliant depths to its emotions, sound, and strengths…arguably it’s one of the more weighty-structures & compositions that you’ll find on You Don’t Fit In But You Belong. At nearly five-minutes in length, ears will appreciate what Ete’s able to accomplish with the extra space; songs like “Sew” are just as entertaining as they are artistic and filled with exceptional ideas in the instrumentation. I look at this particular cut like it’s the real meat of the record in many ways…I know for a fact it’s not going to be the first track to snag the people’s attention, and I get that – but it will always be a strong cut on the record never passed over. Think of albums like…Transatlanticism by Death Cab For Cutie and maybe something like…honestly something like There Is Nothing Left To Lose by the Foo Fighters, and you’ll find a song like “Sew” thriving & existing somewhere in between those worlds of sounds – but the same applies; not the hits from those records, no – the songs in between that made’em completely unforgettable experiences. That’s what “Sew” does…it ties the album together tightly with quality material that holds up over time. Extremely strong transition from verse to chorus on this cut…Ete does a fantastic job with the vocals on “Sew” as well…I mean, he leaves no stones unturned – ever – so you could pretty much point to anything and it’ll stand-out impressively…like the incredible drum rolls on the toms in this tune – or the…what even is that…is that an e-bow in the guitar or just amazing levels of sustain? I’m not sure about what creates these indelible notes that soar through the air, but I’m sure that I dig what I hear. LISTEN to those guitars around the 3:45 mark and all the way to the end will ya? 100% awesomeness.
Ete AhPing never lets UP – and I LOVE IT. There’s no point on this record where I ever felt myself getting bored or wanting to switch it up. Like MAYBE for a second, between songs like “Sew” and “Young Child” as the tunes switch from one to the other, you might consider something as small and simple as the act of getting one’s self a COFFEE…but nooooooooo – AhPing’s got other plans for ya. The moment that “Young Child” starts up, you’ll be hooked right back into your chair after already being captivated in it only seconds before in listening to “Sew” right beforehand. There’s really no escaping You Don’t Fit In But You Belong – and nor did I find that was anything close to what I’d want to do anyhow. Listen to the innovative breakdown and percussion he’s got going on with “Young Child” – LISTEN to the strengths of the singing, hooks, and editing on Ete’s vocals and how much everything happening on the microphone suits the melody, mood, and energy of this song – he’s got a single-worthy cut here again. Almost like a low-key comparison to bands like Birds Of Tokyo or Two Door Cinema Club – “Young Child” is another song that definitely breaks through any potential barriers that a slow/mid-tempo cut could possibly face – and you can thank the execution from production to performance by AhPing for that. Because it’s not JUST about amazing songwriting – you still have to be able to somehow back all that up when it comes time to push record – and hearing him knock ideas like “Young Child” so far out of the park for a complete homerun just makes you want to stand up and outright cheer for this guy. He’s got ALL the right tools to succeed and essentially flawless attention to detail – you can hear it in each and every song you’ll find on You Don’t Fit In But You Belong. When I hear the perfection in a song like “Young Child” all I can think is that, Ete DOES fit in and DOES belong when it comes to making music…there’s not a single solitary tune on this record that’s not worth ALL of your time to listen to. Insatiable beat, hooks and pull towards a song with a sound like “Young Child” – Ete makes pure magic out of this moment.
You can hear the seriousness invade “One And Only” right from moment one…that playful sweetness that’s been on display throughout so many of the songs on this record is absent or surrounded by clouds as this powerful cut begins. Ete is reaching into the darkest realms of the shimmering Pop-style and powerful fragility that The Killers locked onto so perfectly in their style – and he’s come out with exceptional results once again on “One And Only.” Much as he’s displayed in this lineup of songs, he borrows inspiration, but completely makes it his own – and I love that, when it comes to making a comparison to a band like The Killers on a cut like “One And Only” that we’re not talking about anything as obvious something like a “Somebody Told Me” or a “Mr. Brightside” – no – we’re talking about extremely badass & atmospheric cuts that have the sheer weight & slow-burning emotional complexity of a song like say, “Goodnight, Travel Well” at the end of Day And Age, or something like “Chances” by The Strokes on Comedown Machine – that kind of unique intensity & immaculate catchiness. What I love about a song like “One And Only” isn’t just the success in Ete’s darkening of the vibes and sound, but also just how well it suits him too. You can hear the confidence in his voice – this is a man that knows the exact sound he’s seeking out long before he hits the record button – and it’s because he’s got these songs so practiced, perfected, and refined, that no matter which style or direction he heads into, he comes out with gripping results. “One And Only” is certainly one of the cuts that’ll stand out for its mature-vibe…the kind of song that audibly confirms that playtime is over & it’s time to get serious for a moment or two. Definitely nothing wrong with that – it certainly fits on a record like this full of an array of widespread ideas, styles, and emotions continuously on display, while still adding versatility to it.
Drums play a giant role with the guitars and what pulls us into the melody of “Stay (Please Don’t Go)” – but again, not to harp on the point too much or beat this over the head completely, it’s the songwriting that truly stands out and guides Ete to victory time & time again throughout this lineup of tunes on You Don’t Fit In But You Belong. With “Stay (Please Don’t Go)” being the longest cut on the record, you’ll hear AhPing reach out & expand to the furthest realms of this whole idea – you’ll go from the light to the dark & back again on one seriously incredibly journey through sound. The drums continually stand out for the amazing fills, the guitars will bring in wicked doses of distortion as the song shifts from the light to the more shadow-filled & haunting sounds, complete with absolutely award-worthy backing vocals clinging to your bones as the song plays on. Ete does you the good service of returning to the main chorus hooks before the end so we’re not all left lurking in the dark of the mid-section of this song – “Stay (Please Don’t Go)” is designed more ambitiously than many of the songs by comparison, and I’m positive that listening ears out there will connect with the artistic effort being put in here for sure, 100%. Every time he sings “We’re all in this together” in the chorus, it’s a moment you can truly feel – you feel the unity in this song…that notion that, as individual as our experiences & emotions, thoughts & feelings can be, we still share them together. What a tremendous transition around the three-thirty mark to the completely second-gear this song has…believe me, you can’t help but notice just how much this song will change & morph from beginning to end…the ambition is staggering, the execution is STUNNING.
All of these songs have done such an exceptional job of highlight just how much Ete AhPing truly gets it; the combination of melody, songwriting, and true talent all speak strongly on behalf of the gifts this artist genuinely has when it comes to the music he’s making. He reminds me a bit of Keane once again in the delicate-but-fragile sweetness & complex emotions on display through the final song of the record, called “Get Through This.” Considering that titles to a record often make a statement, a smart album will draw to the conclusions it implies from the very beginning – and you’ll get that from “Get Through This” at the end of You Don’t Fit In But You Belong. Not only is it one of the most dreamy and accessible melodies on the entire album to begin with, but it’s got that powerful level of depth on display once again through the lyricism…a yearning to hold on and weather the storm of his thoughts and emotions, perhaps not to break free of them entirely…but at least to make them all manageable somehow as he navigates his way through life. After everything I’ve heard on You Don’t Fit In But You Belong and the imaginative & inventive way he roams through this final tune, I’d say that as long as he steers his ship towards the studio, this artist is always going to find himself on solid ground he can stand confidently on, making music, where he absolutely belongs. I had a feeling even before I had pushed play on You Don’t Fit In But You Belong that I was going to be in for something I’d fully enjoy – but the amount of times that Ete AhPing has exceeded my expectations from the beginning to end of this record can’t be denied either – I think he might very well have one of the real highlights of 2019 with what he’s achieved on this album. Not only will he “Get Through This” – he’s going to come out thriving on the other side of this experience…his songwriting is already up to a world-class standard, his talent for both his music and vocals back every ambition he has up completely – AhPing’s nothing short of incredible.
Find out more about Ete AhPing at his official Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/eteahpingmusic