Radio Drive – One Breath Away – EP Review
I remember when I first started showing my wife the music from the catalog of tunes I put together over the years, and she’d ask me about this song or that song as we’d listen, wondering about what the titles might be…I’d tell her to listen to the hooks of the chorus, and that she’d basically get it right every time. I feel like Kevin Gullickson of Radio Drive helps illustrate and make that point for me perfectly.
Last year, around this time…close to anyhow…sometime in September towards the end of summer, this band put out what was definitely the best record I’d heard from Radio Drive to-date with Before The Day Is Through. All-in-all, I’d say it’s fairly safe to say that Radio Drive has made improvements and positive steps forward for the majority of time I’ve been listening to this band, which traces way back to 2015 with a couple of singles I’d checked out long ago, and for the past three years, we’ve listened to all kinds of tunes on different records that have shown things continually getting better. So it’s no massive surprise to hear Radio Drive thriving once again on One Breath Away…this would likely be somewhere around the band’s prime…it makes logical sense that years of experience eventually leads to a string of victories. It’s hard to say that I’d personally like this EP or any individual song better than the cuts I liked the most on Before The Day Is Through, but there’s no denying I’m enjoying what I hear as well. The consistency is there in the quality & execution…as to what I personally think, ever, that’s all a distant second place when it comes to what’s important…I just wanna hear you doin’ what you love in the best ways you can possibly do it. Kevin gets it. I don’t think he expects every song he’s ever going to write to end up in the top spot on every one of our playlists at this point in his career…not only would that be impossible to begin with, but that would be one heckin’ lofty goal for any artist or band to achieve.
“I Believe I Believe” could very well be my favorite cut of the bunch this time around. One Breath Away has a set of four tracks that are put together well & played with the passion we’re used to finding in the music of Radio Drive…I might not think this EP is a full-on step forward, but it’s a strong lateral move that reveals the consistency we’re looking for. If you like what you’ve heard from Kevin in the past, there’s not a doubt in my mind that you’d dig this too. “I Believe I Believe” has that playful bounce, that lighthearted spark, that vibrantly colorful brand of symbiotic Pop/Rock that he’s so good at creating – and I felt like the infusion of positivity into this first track really nailed the spirit of the man behind the music & all that Gullickson really stands for. He not only makes music designed to be listened to, but quite often to inspire you as well…”I Believe I Believe” has a truly comforting vibe to it that people will appreciate in that regard. The friendly & welcoming demeanor of this tune is certainly upbeat and has the kind of sweetened spark guaranteed to draw people in & get them singing along quickly…and there’s value in that for sure. From the strings to the use of effects in production, to the solid infusion of low-end in the bass and cleverness of the keyboards overall, there’s a lot of really smart things that stack up strong in this sunshine-laden tune…”I Believe I Believe” is the kind of cut that could part the dark of the clouds on a rainy day and begin to produce colorful rainbows in the sky above your head instead. It’s got the hand-clap crowd-participation moment built into its fabric around the three-minute mark, and all-around, I’d say he’s got a solid people pleaser with this opening tune…”I Believe I Believe” that’s true.
Is there an echo in here? We just went through a track called “I Believe I Believe,” and now we’re rockin’ with “Moment By Moment” that even goes on to claim there’s “so much to say?” How come we’re sayin’ everything twice then Kevin? If there’s truly that much to communicate, use your words my brother! Obviously I’m kidding around, and obviously it’s even fairly luck of the draw that these two tracks happened to line up one after the other on One Breath Away…but it does perhaps become noticeable by the same token. Repetition can be a fantastic friend of great songwriting, so don’t get it twisted & don’t misread these musings of mine…I’d probably readily tell you that it’s the first two tracks on this EP that carry the majority of the weight & accessibility when it comes right down to it. Anyhow – my intention certainly isn’t to poke fun at the guy for the repetition that occurs either in the rhymes or the words themselves, but to highlight an opportunity that exists within his music to say MORE than he has been, and share more with us as listeners…because deep down, I think we want that. What I do love for sure, is the sweetness on display here, which gets highlighted perfectly by the keyboards and in the vocals of this tune. Where repetition becomes a dangerous adversary of songwriting, is in the durability department…the more we hear something, the more we expect it and the less it supplies that need for us to return…like our brains have already solved the puzzle & there’s nothing left to challenge us any longer. So while it’s catchy for sure, and “Moment By Moment” is cleverly put together – it becomes so much tougher to say whether or not it’ll continue to hold up as strong as its first impression will make over the years to follow. For me, I’d say the keyboards really speak to me as the most significant highlight…I love what’s happening there – but there’s a good chance that the main transition in the hooks of the chorus could steal the show over time, or for many listeners out there as well. A lot of the reason that’s the case, is largely due to the low-end coming to life there, and the bass really making its presence felt…the depth in the low-end is a huge factor in catching our attention by contrast when everything else is so bright & shiny, airy & atmospherically inclined. “Moment By Moment” is a great example of sweetness done right though, at least in my opinion…the hooks work, the structure and melody are on-point, Kevin sings this with conviction…at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
With “Be Yourself Tonight” I started to feel the…hmmm…I guess similar consistency in the rhyme scheme…that’s probably the best way to put it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it starts to make the material drag, but perhaps more predictable in that sense. Keep in mind, I’m constantly listening to music, all day, every day…so my experiences tend to be a bit different than the majority of people hearing any given record or song – but for me, a certain level of familiarity ends up bringing me to a point where I can finish the sentences of thoughts in lines of music before I even reach the end of’em – make sense? With such clarity and a priority for clear pronunciation in his songs, we really do notice how each line is gonna rhyme with the next & so on. All-in-all, “Be Yourself Tonight” is still a decent tune and played with the same high level of passion and commitment that you know & love from Radio Drive – I don’t know that the main hooks quite measure up to what we’ve heard on the first two tracks, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say this track is all that far behind. Where rhymes tend to get in the way, is where you start to wonder if the words are really what Kevin WANTS to say, as opposed to what becomes phonetically convenient…and honestly, I couldn’t tell ya for sure. Only he’s gonna know the answer to that question…but I do suspect that he’s got a few spots where he’s searching for that word that’ll fit with the structure and design as opposed to simply saying what he might want to say to us. There’s trade-offs and compromises made all the way through art & music, that’s nothing new – but I feel like the next evolution to Radio Drive probably exists in the lyrics as a result of how this particular EP came out this time around. Kevin’s not absent of ideas, but it’s a bit spare on the inside of each of’em, and I’d certainly advise a little caution when it comes to that…the more substance he can provide, the more of himself that he puts into a song, the stronger the connection to everyone listening will become.
Kevin…Kevin…Kevin…my man…you’ve got the echo-effect somewhat threaded into a whole lot of this record – and you promised there was “so much to say” so early on into this experience! It always makes me wonder what the priorities really are in situations like these…given that I’m a writer myself, it almost makes the words become the default priority…and of course, that’s not nearly always the case when it comes to music out there far & wide across the scene. I feel like for Kevin, it’s likely melody that comes first…then ensuring the song has everything it needs instrumentation-wise…and then maybe, the lyrics might come somewhere into play after that. That’s the theory I’m working with…but what I can tell you for a certain FACT…is that I often think he’s got much more to give us in that department than he often does. “Don’t You Know” comes in at a pretty distant fourth place for me personally when it comes to this particular lineup of tunes…I LOVE the punch that the music has…I even love the “ooo ooo ooos” in this tune, and I rarely ever like those in anyone’s songs…but lyrically, it really felt like this final track was spinning its wheels a fair bit more than the other three cuts were. Musically & production-wise, there’s a good chance this track might even be my favorite of the bunch…lyrically, I’m fairly at odds with it and left wanting a whole lot more…but I’ve definitely listened to a whole lot of love-songs in my lifetime too. So for me, this cut treads on a whole lot of well-traversed terrain thematically…but in terms of the way the music moves & flows, I think Radio Drive reveals a whole lot of greatness and perhaps even more potential here too. Gullickson knows full-well how to get the most out of a transition, and that’s exactly what you get in the shift into the chorus of “Don’t You Know” – and vocally, I’d be the first to admit he’s singing both this song, and the songs on this entire EP, at a level you’d have to consider to be his best.
So don’t get it twisted, don’t get me wrong – there ARE lots of positives to be found here on One Breath Away and a whole lot of reasons to listen, especially given how enticing the opening track immediately becomes. I know that Kevin’s got even MORE to show us with the music of Radio Drive, and I am THAT dude that always tries to push people towards that next level…call me greedy, call me selfish, call me straight up wrong if you like – I just do what I do, so that YOU can do the best in all of what YOU do, too.
To borrow a phrase from the man direct, “I believe I believe in YOU” Kevin – keep going – you got this.
Find out more about Radio Drive from the official website at: https://radiodrive.net
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