Luke Brown – Rain

 Luke Brown – Rain

Luke Brown – Rain – Album Review

Word on the street is that this record was originally made a couple years back, but just dropped online into the world here in 2022 – so what you’re hearing from Luke Brown is actually a reflection of where it all started…the past of his beginnings echoing right on into the present day.  Lots of positives to be found in the ten-song set of Rain, and as all new artists encounter, some room for evolution, expansion, and growth for the future to come too – but I’ll tell ya this much straight off the bat, the way he’s got “Free? (Intro)” mixed is enticing y’all…Luke caught my interest and gained my attention from track one.  For myself personally, “Free? (Intro)” is the kind of cut that gets me onboard right away…you can tell the effort is being put in, you feel me?  From the lefts to the rights, the dude’s making moves that matter – his performance is tight, his words are thought-provoking, the jazzy beat works well, and the production is stellar.  It’s still an intro of course…so yeah…he’s still just getting warmed up & all…but really, if I’m being honest with ya, “Free? (Intro)” really has no problem playing like a cut that can stand on its own; it’s obviously short as the title would imply to ya, but for less than two-minutes in length, it’s engaging.

“Between?”  This homie’s got all kinds of questions y’all.  If he’s looking for answers here…man…my cupboard is BARE…but I can do my best to tell Luke about what I’m hearing.  Ultimately…hmm…I’ll say this – the man’s heading in the right direction without question.  The music he’s working with on this second cut is straight-up exceptional stuff…I absolutely love the beat & sound, and that’s clearly gonna be a key element of what inspires him to do what he does on the m-i-c.  I also really dig the fact that, again, you can hear the effort being put in – Brown’s lyricism is going to be what leads him to his biggest victories over time, and if this is where it all starts, it won’t be long before he’s an all-out force to be reckoned with.  His internal thoughts are laid out here in the wide-open, and it’s insightful content when you’re listening closely to what he has to say.  My advice is…go for clarity bro.  The delivery Luke’s got has everything it needs in that regard, but whether it’s a microphone thing, or an effects thing, the slight edge that he adds to the sound itself that gives it that hint of distortion…I dunno…I was tossed up about that I suppose.  To me, it sounds like it’s probably a stylistic choice – but just keep in mind homie, the average everyday set of ears ain’t gonna hear it the same way…they’re gonna assume things are peakin’ in the mix as opposed to a choice that’s being made.  Which could still be the case, I’m just theorizing out loud here…I’m giving Luke credit for making his music the way he wants to make it – but I’m also tellin’ him about what public perception is like too…it’ll be up to him whether that matters, or it doesn’t.  I still feel like you can get to the words well enough – but I’m also about going with what suits the song, always – so think about it this way…the beat he’s working with is like, completely delicate magic & jazzy – to give what’s happening on the mic a similar smoothness in that regard creates that consistency.  Go where the music takes ya…otherwise you’re “putting your energy into the wrong mission.”  Luke gets it – and with time & experience, believe me, he’ll get it even more than he does now…that’s how it works.

This right here though…track three…these are the reasons I get out of bed in the morning.  “Lament” is that cut that confirms the dude has got the right ideas to find whatever kind of success he’s looking for in this music-business, and that he knows his way around a hook.  With the rhythm and swagger in his flow, combined with the melody – he’s got everything he needs.  Like I advised on “Between?,” I’ve got similar advice for him on “Lament” too…just watch those effects & layers my man…in my opinion, I’m not yet convinced that you need’em when the strongest moments on the mic in Brown’s music actually come through the moments with clarity & less involved in the mix.  That’s kind of how things go at the beginning of a career though…and it ain’t a bad move – it’s how we often establish confidence.  All I’m sayin’ is that Luke’s got the skills…he doesn’t need to mask his voice with as many effects to get the people listening – his personality, rhythm, flow, and ideas have got that fully covered.  The risk in too many competing layers & effects is that eventual point where things clash melodically and tones can get tarnished in the blender of having too much in the mix…dial it back my man…let the words shine like they should, and go with where the music takes ya.  You don’t want “way too much noise” – you wanna find that balance between what you wanna say & what you want that all to sound like.  “Lament” is way closer to the right results though overall…it’s got an irresistible beat once again & Luke’s an emcee that genuinely has something to say, even if he’s claiming to be “uninspired” on this particular cut – all-in-all, this was the track that had me believing Luke’s on the right path to make himself a real career outta this.

Yeah…you know something?  Luke’s got an uncanny sense of what to work with when it comes to the music he’s rockin’ with.  That jazzy piano intro on the way into “Disruptions” is perfect – and just when you think that he’s about to continue with the same kind of thing he’s shown us all so far, he hits you with the switch at the right time, and heads in a completely different direction to start drillin’ ya with his words instead.  I’m probably STILL gonna be THAT dude that’s gonna advocate for more clarity in the mix when it comes to his vocals…BUT…I’ll say this – in a track with more intensity like you’ll find on “Disruptions,” the effects-heavy approach ain’t exactly a bad idea.  If the other tracks beforehand didn’t have something similar as well, I think it probably would have been as effective as it should be here.  Like I was sayin’ young blood…don’t be afraid to dial it back when the music calls for it – that’s going to be what helps to create the dynamics of your record overall, and make moments like what we hear on the mic in “Disruptions” carry the extra weight that they should.  I can get behind this track though – I’m still gonna be more partial towards a cut like “Lament” beforehand personally, but in terms of what’s out there & what’s relevant to the scene right now, “Disruptions” puts him in good position to make a memorable impression on the listeners out there.  Luke’s ready to make some noise, be that master of chaos and cause some “Disruptions” with his thoughts being spilled through the mic – and this proves it.

“Infinity And Further More” probably shines a brighter light on the point I’ve been making all along when it comes to Luke’s vocal sound…this cut shows a few cracks in his armor here, which is only natural this early on into a career.  Anyhow.  The effects that he’s choosing to rock with…you can somewhat get away with that stuff when the vocals are sunken within the mix of the music like they have been so far – the people out there listening will generally accept that, to a degree.  When you bring them up above the music too far though, like they are on “Infinity And Further More,” that’s when they can tend to just sound blown-out though – and that’s the dangerous spot where folks start to tune out a lot more, no matter how good the ideas, words, or concept might be.  So there’s risk being taken here…which can be a good thing too – it’s important to try different things to see what works early on in a career.  In my opinion, you can almost never go wrong by sinking vocals deep into the mix – it only makes everything sound BIGGER as a result…and if you’re as amped-up & energetic as Luke is in the way he raps out “Infinity And Further More,” believe me y’all, we’ll still hear ya just fine, even if the vocals are lower in the volume department than normal.  You just don’t want to get to that point where things are so far above the mix overall, that people question whether or not things are effects, or simply plain ol’ blown out of proportion & peakin’ on the studio boards above the red line…that’s where things get dicey.  I’d also advise the man to keep a close eye on the metering too…sometimes a syllable or two less can make all the difference in the world, even if it’s just within one line.  Ultimately, the dude is rockin’ with parts that are significantly complex in the rhythm of his words, and he’s pulling it off extremely well when it comes to his performance…but keep in mind that, as artists, we’ll never hear the 95% of a song that’s going right over the years to follow – we’ll hear the 5% we could have done better for the rest of time.

You can tell he’s from that new-school of dudes like Kendrick Lamar that aren’t scared of doing things differently than the rest – and I dig that, even if it doesn’t always work.  I mean, hell, I’d be the first to tell ya that not everything Lamar does works as brilliantly as we want it to – but almost everything he does is a real with for ART and pushing the whole game FURTHER…so in that respect, Brown is keeping good company, even if the results are mixed.  “Afraid?” is a solid example of that.  It’s a track that’s barely longer than the intro was, and it’s really just a quick rip through Luke’s thought-process & what’s on his mind at the moment…which is fine, but it’s harder to argue that it’s as memorable as a track could potentially be.  In a long list of fears and what makes him hesitate in the pursuit of greatness – I think he’s honestly got something that could be essentially to his pathway forward here, even if it’s not going to be the listener’s number-one track to listen to, you feel me?  Basically, if I was Luke, I’d be taking a long listen to everything he’s rapping about on “Afraid?” and REBELLING AGAINST IT ALL, 100%.  This whole music-thang…succeeding in your art…it’s all about dropping those insecurities & finding that level of confidence that makes us BELIEVE in what we can do.  We’re all going to have moments where we question our direction as artists, sure – but having confidence in the material, the music, and what you can do on the m-i-c, that all comes from being well rehearsed and ready for the time where talent meets opportunity.  It’s all about not being “Afraid?” really – and the best way to overcome that, is by knowing the material inside & out, backwards & forwards…that’s what replaces fear with confidence.

“How Come?” – like I was tellin’ ya, the man’s got questions of all kinds on this record.  I’ll say this – if he gets an answer to “How Come?” I hope he shares it with us…because I’ve got absolutely no clue.  “How Come?” goes on to ask a series of questions within this cut…some that are personal to him, and others that are more universal like why God would let Peter walk on water and let the rest of us drown – like I said…I ain’t gonna be the one to have the answers to that, but I’m as equally interested in what that might be as Luke is.  A lot of “How Come?” seems to be questions aimed directly towards God…which could be my interpretation of what I’m hearing, but that’s the theory I’m goin’ with.  Chances are, at least when looking at this track from that perspective, whether you’re religious or not, you’ll relate to what’s being spit through the mic – I think it’s entirely natural what we contemplate our existence and why some things are what they are, and others are not, you follow?  I’d say that “How Come?” was one of my favorite cuts on the record when it comes to the lyrics & concept…and in terms of the vocals, I’d say that Luke’s found a much clearer way of spittin’ his thoughts out that’s much closer to what I was talking about all along.  As a result, we connect that much more with what’s being said – and while it’s still not quite as smooth as I’d probably go for myself in the production based on what the song’s music & beat are calling for, Brown’s found a better balance to make this track hit home with us listening.  I don’t know that he’s really put a memorable hook into this particular cut to give it that edge it would need to stand out to the majority of people hearing it…but I salute the guy for putting together a track that has real depth to it, is unafraid to get personal, and sounds tighter than much of the set overall.

As far as the layers are concerned, I actually don’t mind the way that “Rainy Freestyle” comes out either.  I still ain’t sayin’ it’s my favorite method, I’m still not saying keepin’ it clear with one or two layers from the mic wouldn’t be more effective – but I am saying that I really enjoyed “Rainy Freestyle.”  On a record it’s always tough to tell what is or what isn’t freestyled…but I’m not here to judge that – all I can tell ya is what sounds good.  If Luke rapped this all on the fly, he should be commended – it came out right and he nailed the moment.  If he had this pre-written, the results still are what they are – “Rainy Freestyle” came out sounding right…Brown’s free-flowing thoughts connect, and this track shines light on the fact that he’s got a style that works, and that he’s got a unique way of communicating through his music.  It’s similar to “How Come?” in the sense that it also feels like it’s somewhat devoid of that main hook to bring us back to listen to it again, but these are the kind of deep cuts that you pretty much expect to find on an album somewhere, and provide bench strength to the lineup.  Dude’s a freakin’ poet when it comes right down to it…Luke should be extremely proud of the way he’s able to express his thoughts in words and in his music…he’s undeniably gifted in that regard, and that talent will carry him a long way.

I suppose the hooks are where he’s got the most room to evolve as an artist.  If you dig the sound of his flow and the rhythm in his words, then you’re on solid ground – because right now, that IS the main hook for the most part.  A track like “Lament” is the real exception in this set – and that’s something he might wanna take a look at…that’s the undeniable single on Rain, and stands the biggest chance of bringing the people back to listen again or listen further.  Not everyone out there wants to have tracks that are all flashy with sing-along hooks or whatever, and I get that – sometimes you want that more contemplative & serious vibe like you find on “Letter” – but it’s something for Luke to consider when it comes time to make that next record.  The art of making music and crafting songs, is really all about whether or not you’re making cuts that reach your audience, or if you’re writing them as an outlet for your own thoughts & creativity, regardless of what anyone thinks.  Neither is right or wrong, it’s all about what YOU want to get out of it personally as an artist.  Right now as it stands, Luke should be proud of what he’s accomplished and how he’s been so down to earth in the way that he’s expressed his thoughts throughout this record…but there’s no doubt that makes this album a bit more personal to him, as opposed to music for everybody – make sense?  There’s plenty of room for him to find those spaces to make things more accessible – and he’s proven that he’s able to really make magic in a hook like he did on “Lament” earlier on…but admittedly, universal hooks are way more rare to discover in the music we make.  To reach the people out there though, that’s the key – that’s the reality – without a real tangible hook in the vocals to go with the music, the message itself can get lost…and if you’re putting all that effort into what you say like Luke does, you wanna go about making sure that gets heard.  That’s all I’m saying…and deep down, I’m sure he agrees.  It’s one thing to be able to drop serious bars that have rhythm & flow & precision like he does – but it’s another thing entirely when it comes to the art of finding the balance between saying what you wanna say in a way that people will wanna hear it again & again.  It’s not something that comes easily overnight…it takes objectivity, time, and experience.  Like I’ve been saying…I’m confident an artist like Luke gets there, based on what he’s shown us already.

“Sincerely Yours,” in my opinion, is also one of the most important cuts you’ll find on Rain that illuminates the pathway forward for Luke from here.  All this man’s gotta do is take his own advice from what I can tell…and the more he believes in these thoughts inside his head, and practices them on the outside in real life, the better off he’s gonna be as an artist.  He’s essentially written a letter to himself in many ways on “Sincerely Yours” – though it might be equally applicable to all you listening out there too – but yeah…something tells me, he’s pretty much added a lot of what’s applicable to him personally, that he needs to remember over these next years to come, and built himself a song around it.  Love the bass-line that is at the core of this song too…and with just the one layer of vocals, even with the hint of distortion that it has, I gotta say – I think this is my favorite sound of his voice on the mic so far – which really ain’t a bad note to go out on y’all.  “Remember your weaknesses cause it’ll make your strengths more prominent” is an incredibly insightful line in this final cut…and great advice we should all take heed of overall.  Love the music, love the vibe…the piano/bass/beat combination here really works brilliantly for Luke’s style & approach on this last cut…and subtly delivers a seriously memorable moment at the very end of Rain.  I’m definitely looking forward to where Luke’s story goes from here…if he takes all the advice he’s written into the fabric of this record himself, he’ll knock it outta the park on that next record.  “We’re on the verge of an epiphany, I know” as he’ll tell ya himself – and I’m convinced about that too.

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