Paul de Leon – Younger Years – EP Review
Absolutely STOKED to have this man back in the spotlight and his music coming through our speakers once again. Obviously the main concern here is the fact that it’s been about three years and I’ve promoted Paul de Leon’s music about just as much as he has during that same timeframe online. If I had his talent, believe me, we’d be looking at a completely different scenario. Anyone’s that’s been within earshot of me since I first latched onto his single “Criminals” from 2018 on-forward, would know I had more faith in this guy than pretty much everyone else out there in this music-scene we share. I can’t imagine he’s been happy about the output situation any more than I am – but it’s also hard not to imagine a scenario where he wouldn’t have had control of changing it…Covid times will explain about a year away…as for the rest, I honestly don’t know. It can be very frustrating to run into people that can change the world and choose not to…but to be fair to Paul, maybe it’s not just him…maybe that’s just the world we’re all livin’ in now. Great music and musicians get passed over each and every day when they don’t have the drive to match the talent they possess…maybe that’s Paul, maybe it’s not…I really only ever heard the one song with his single “Criminals” and a handful of demos from back around the same time, so what do I know anyhow?
I can tell you that in a just society, no song like “Criminals” would be overlooked without it being a crime itself. The reality is, is that Paul had himself a massive hit song there – a song that I still put on all the time myself whenever someone asks me, “hey Jer @ SBS, what’s a 100% bulletproof song sound like?” – this guy provided a fantastic example. Maybe there weren’t enough of us out there…maybe that’s part of what’s had Paul on pause. Maybe the overall reaction to “Criminals,” though it’s racked up hundreds of thousands of hits…maybe it wasn’t enough to provide that spark of inspiration to keep things moving full speed ahead. Maybe it’s simply a case of preparing new material and cautiously working on it in the background all this time…maybe it’s the pressure of expectations…maybe it’s just life getting in the way of the process of making music & holding people back from the destiny they’re meant for, as it’s known to do. I have just enough grey in my beard hairs now to appreciate just how short our time genuinely is.
So! Let’s get it goin’ Paul. This is my sharp stick pokin’ ya directly in the eye. Time is ticking and it’s time to get movin’ forward. You’re already releasing an EP called Younger Years, & you’re definitely younger than I am brother-man…but if this isn’t all causing you a massive panic inside ya, perhaps it should be sir. “Just shoot your shot,” like you say yourself in the backing vocals of “Revolver” – that’s sage self-advice.
It certainly won’t hurt him, that I can tell ya for sure…and perhaps Paul has simply been waiting for the right time to put his best foot forward. I’m not all about waiting, but I do understand & empathize. All I know beyond the shadow of a doubt is that he’s got five verifiably single-worthy tunes on his hands that appear on the Younger Years EP…and if there’s a time to be pushing forward, it’s most definitely now.
For real – because I only had an alphabetical order to this pre-release, I figured I’d put these in the order I felt went from the weakest track to the strongest, so that I could end this review on a high-note. To say that this task became difficult would be an understatement of the highest proportions – it was basically impossible; and if that doesn’t tell ya something about the strength of the music coming out from Paul de Leon this year, I don’t know what else could. Younger Years doesn’t contain a moment’s worth of dead space or a tune that won’t get you as excited as the others will – Paul’s got a remarkably balanced record coming out this year with five songs that absolutely has him sounding every bit as special as I’ve claimed he has been from day one. I still went through with my little side-project here…I’ve got these songs coming up in the order of their greatness, starting with what’s clearly an excellent tune called “Habit.” And if this is how good things are starting here, believe me, Younger Years gets that much better by the time things are all said, sung, and done…he’s got a can’t-lose set of songs.
So strong in fact, I can remember many of them from hearing them in their demo form long ago, which should also tell ya something. These tracks are built to hold up over time, sound refreshed and refined – Paul de Leon has got all the tools he needs to go forth & conquer from here – I’m looking forward to it.
Quality takes time, as they say, as they tell me, as they claim…and quite often that’s the truth. Listening to the results of the Younger Years EP, it’s pretty hard to argue otherwise knowing the amount of time & effort that’s been spent in making it. “Habit” is just as much of a hit song as virtually any you could click on here in this set of five…great bass-lines, fantastic mix on the vocals to give this track an even thicker atmospheric vibe while also keeping everything in the music sparkling & shining spot-on. He’s workin’ with the magic of good rhythm & precision timing…I’d probably argue that it’s the pre-chorus he’s got goin’ on during “Habit” that makes the biggest impact on us for sure, but that’s not to say you won’t find verifiable hooks in the verse & chorus surrounding it. Detail-wise, Paul & his band have done a stellar job of ensuring no stone has been left unturned, and that the maximum potential of “Habit” is achieved from every angle, lefts to rights. Promise ya, it won’t take long at all for the dynamics of this track to make an solid impression on ya, and have you reaching to turn up some Paul de Leon music this year. Love the sound of the guitar…the main melodic line in the verses is expertly played – and hearing the rest of the players rise up to raise the stakes as they cruise into the chorus…I mean, it not only works and reveals the stunning balance of strengths within the music of Paul de Leon & his band, but it’s the kind of unified sound that leaves no man behind, you know what I mean? Everyone’s on the same page & the results speak volumes on behalf of a crew that set out on a mission, and fully achieved their goals.
With production that’s every bit as shiny as the performance you’ll hear on “Casually” – I’ve got this track up next on my list. Absolutely love the guitars here, love the crisp bounce of the bass & snap of the drums along with it…things are sounding tremendously on-point and all around stellar in every way. Paul does an incredible job with the vocals of this song, starting in a fairly chill gear, and continually adding new pieces, whether it’s more intensity or emotion or some falsetto hooks…you get what I mean – he gives ya plenty to enjoy in a variety of ways. People are gonna react to the lyrical line of “hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave” in different ways…I recognize that it’s essentially part of a pick-up line that’s older than I am by quite some years…but ultimately, it does suit the theme of “Casually,” so I’d argue on behalf of its inclusion. In addition to that, it’s hard to not notice the inherent sweetness that comes with Paul’s delivery of that line…and if he’s looking for love for just a short time, than hey, I mean…it all fits the concept of “Casually” as well. I think you can hear in the sentiment of the sound at work that “Casually” might be an ideal concept, but it’s a hard one to keep in practice – Paul’s looking for more than just “Casually” or part-time when it comes right down to it, and if you’re paying close attention to his words, you’ll hear things shift in a more potentially permanent direction, or at least a yearning for that to be the case as he questions why he’s up all night & hanging with this special person every day if it’s all just supposed to be an every now & then type-deal. “Casually” captures a lot of what love is like out there in the modern-day world in an extremely relevant & relatable way…and proves that even though the means & methods of approaching it all over time may change, but the anxiety & questions that arise from the pursuit of love are everlasting. As far as that potentially polarizing line I’ve already pointed out…melodically, it’s the most mesmerizing moment in this song…so honestly, whether you dig what’s being said or not, my vote is that it remains intact…I love this part of “Casually” & felt like it’s one of the strongest singular moments on this EP that you’ll remember, 100%.
Again, to be clear – you might very well feel like these two songs are the best on the new EP, and I wouldn’t blame ya if you did – I’m splitting hairs when it comes right down to it, and as I’ve told ya already, he’s got nothing but single-worthy material on Younger Years. The main chorus hooks of “Revolver” are all out spectacular, and definitely one of the most accessible, universal vibes you’ll find on a record that’s stocked full of that good-good stuff. Paul’s working with a complex set of emotions to form the main strengths of the songwriting and guide him to the devastatingly beautiful chorus this track contains…I think it’s captured a captivating, lively, and very real performance from the man behind the microphone, and I think he knocks the hooks of this track straight outta the park in every possible way. But he knows that already – “Revolver” would be one of those cuts I remember hearing way back in the day in demo form – he’s done really well to fill this whole idea out perfectly, and bring a flawless bounce to the whole sound that stands out. The production leaps right outta your speakers – and every layer of the instrumentation has more than enough space in the mix to shine as bright as it all should. Kind of like a combination of light R&B/Funk meets Indie/Dream-Pop…I’d fully expect a track like “Revolver” has every chance of making an impact on a whole lot of hearts & minds out there listening. Paul might “never fall in love again” according to the words – but according to the vibe, he can’t stop US from falling in love with him – the man writes an incredible song, that’s just the facts. Not only does he prove it every time he shows up, the execution to match the ambitions of his writing, is straight-up spectacular to listen to – I listen to a track like “Revolver” & know there’s not a thing I’d change about it.
“Revolver” could probably be just as easily #2 or even #1 on my own list over here…but I have the feeling that the energy of “Wasted” is probably going to have that much more reach overall when it comes to the masses listening. In terms of Paul’s own signature style & sound, “Wasted” seems like a natural extension of the direction he was heading in with “Criminals” back in 2018…maybe just pepped-up a bit more with its pace & movement, but a closer cousin to that cut than any of the others for sure. Paul gets miles & miles out of the hooks here – the whole “do you love, do you love me” and “do you trust, do you trust me” rhythm & melody is super strong, and pretty much guaranteed to get lodged permanently in more than a few folks listening ears out there – you can trust ME on that. Excellent additions from the keyboards/digitalized enhancements to be found here in the music – and the work put into the backing vocals is nothing short of remarkable. You add that to the superb energy and tone that Paul puts into the microphone here, and it’s essentially a done deal – people out there are gonna love what they hear on “Wasted” and crank this cut right up to the rafters. de Leon finds the real heart in the complexities of life & love and details the frantic nature of those feelings and their intensity spot-on as he sings “Wasted” – & lyrically, he’s got this infused with perfect imagery to suit the entire theme. Tight as tight can be, polished & smooth – the fluidity & flawlessness of this cut should be completely audible to everyone – by this point in the lineup of Younger Years, I’m every bit as excited for you to hear Paul’s latest material as I’d imagine that he is himself. Green light Paul – you’re on your way to #1.
I am going with “Pleasure” as the crème de la crème of this brand-new EP, which is officially out TODAY at long last – de Leon is crushing this track with humble sincerity, style & swagger, and melody that’ll hit ya straight in the heartstrings. For a mid-tempo tune, which I’d almost never recommend as a single pace-wise, I think he’s worked in an exceptional amount of mesmerizing vibes that are basically the very definition of what captivating truly is. The verses contain a ton of interesting sound that’ll have no problem pulling you in to begin with – but hearing the stakes raised from verse to chorus here really reveals the magic in de Leon’s music…and believe it or not, he’s saved even more fireworks for you in the final forty-five seconds or so as he heightens the vibes of the whole atmosphere to epically dreamy proportions by the end. I don’t know for a certainty that it’s THE single-worthy cut of the bunch…there’s an honest argument to be made that either “Habit” or “Wasted” – or even the other two for that matter – might actually contain a higher degree of accessible sound…perhaps…but in terms of songwriting and the craft itself, I felt like “Pleasure” couldn’t be beat. Ultimately, Paul really can’t lose when it comes to the music part of what he’s doing with his career…all he’s gotta do now is apply that internal pressure on himself a little bit more than he might have been in the past, and embrace this next chapter of his life as an artist with everything he’s got. Because he’s got nothing but bulletproof material he should absolutely believe in & proudly stand behind – “Pleasure” is as top-notch as the rest of this record has been when it comes right down to it…any of these cuts could be your favorites, and I’d support ya no matter what you chose. It might have taken a while to get to this point…there might have been a ton of obstacles in between the distance from the start of this EP to getting it finished…all I know, is that Paul’s somehow made it worth the wait without question. Dude’s an incredibly gifted talent out there in our music-scene – I’m hoping that the Younger Years EP inspires this guy to get out there and conquer the world one set of speakers at a time…as far as I can tell, and as far as I can hear, the potential of Paul de Leon remains as limitless as ever.
Listen to Paul de Leon at his official page at Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/43jpzRLDOBJnJ2jQVJFPBg
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