Rian Music – 4th St. – Album Review
I dig records like this…fully collaborative…Rian Music has a ton of guest-stars & featured talent throughout this album called 4th St. that has each song offering something unique from the last. While it might seem like there’s greater risk attached to such noticeable versatility, Rian Music proves that diversity in music is a true asset by gathering a whole host of complementary performers & artists that brilliantly suit the songs created for this record. All kinds of fantastic experiences to be had here!
You’ll notice several things working in Rian Music’s favor right off the drop as “I’m The One” starts out the 4th St. record. For example, the combination of beat, bass, and violin is immediately enticing and anti-typical…the kind of uniqueness that catches your attention instantly. Ultimately, it’s quite a compelling structure…not overtly loose, but willing to journey into the expressive side of music with a curious approach in a sincere effort to come out with something sparklingly new to experience, how about that? While I was enjoying myself from the get-go here pretty much, where “I’m The One” really came to life was within the chorus, where you hear featured guest Shana Munson shine beautifully in the backup vocals and give this cut an extra surge of energy in this collaboration. Even though a band like Arcade Fire would be well outside this genre…structurally and sound-wise, there are actually a lot of comparisons to be made once they hit that magical chorus; and I felt similar about “There You Are” when it continued on afterwards as well. I really love the way the drums and bass sound in the rhythm section of Rian Music’s “I’m The One” and think that instantly stands out with professionalism that sets this project apart from the rest…but I’d also by lying to ya by omission if I didn’t praise that chorus enough and give it the props it deserves for propelling a good song into a noticeably great one.
Rian Mac, James “The Godfather” Gardiner, and Victor Campos made for a killer collaboration on the opening track alongside Shana Munson, and they continue to shine bright on the following cut called “There You Are” with guest-star Maria Long. Like I was tellin’ ya from the very beginning of this review, the versatility in this record is a serious asset – and you start to truly appreciate that from the second track and the wonderful performance Maria puts in after hearing how successful Shana was only moments before on “I’m The One,” with completely different results in the overall sound of each song. After having had a great listen through this record…and as strongly as I’ll feel about hooks on display in “Oh Hey Hey,” “Exit 7,” and “Diplomatic Skies” later on down the line…I think just about every one of us listening out there would come to the consensus that “There You Are” is the album’s most universal vibe and all-out accessible cut. Spectacularly single-worthy when it comes right down to it…there’s a ton of character in this song’s instrumentation and vocals…and if I was pinned down to reveal my favorite performance by a guest star on this album, I’d probably have to hand the award happily to Maria Long. Her voice is fabulous to begin with, clearly – but like all great things, it’s all about how you use it – and through her vibrant, colorful, angelic, graceful, and bold vocal melody, she brings this whole cut to the next level it deserved. Both these first two tunes generously expand as they hit the chorus and really make the most of the potential afforded by the songwriting…the execution and structure definitely deserves accolades of their own. Having said that, I think as far as an overall balance between verse, chorus, instrumentation, and vocals are concerned – what this collaborative crew brings to “There You Are” is bound to appeal to every set of ears listening…this is one seriously gripping & refreshing cut that demands you test the limitations of your stereo system & speakers by turning this right up to the rafters.
I’m gonna put “Oh Hey Hey” in the category of ‘how on earth did I end up loving this song as much as I do?’ – because there’s no doubt whatsoever this whole sound is usually found well outside of my own personal playlists. As we like to say here though, good music is exactly that – and “Oh Hey Hey” proves that a song done right is a song that has the potential to break through to a whole new audience of listeners out there, myself included. I couldn’t listen to this cut without being highly impressed with the extraordinary levels of naturally-smooth sound and organic-cool “Oh Hey Hey” contains; quite honestly, it’s probably one of the easiest songs to like or love that I’ve heard so far this year. Warm and welcoming vibes are found everywhere from the music to the microphone on this track, and the entire track seems so chill, yet so vibrant & lively at the same time, that you really gotta hand it to Rian Music for creating a cut that practically has its own gravitational pull; it’d be hard, if not futile, to resist this tune. Listen to the bounce in the low-end synth sounds will ya? Howz about them horns in the mix too eh? The added personality added into the lead vocals throughout the verses…the inherently smooth vibes of the chorus and its made-to-sing-along melody…the lively musicianship and genuine groove they all slide right into…it all stacks up to a solid win here. Singing “I’m so free” on repeat in the song’s second-chorus of sorts, has never sounded so natural and fitting…but you’ll hear that expressive & loose vibe reigns supreme at the core of “Oh Hey Hey” and it’s moments like this that tie the whole thang together perfectly. I’m surprised at how much I loved this personally, but likely, you won’t be – I’d assume that a track like “Oh Hey Hey” is pretty much built for the masses to love upon first listen.
“Take It Slow” will probably end up being a bit more challenging for some listeners in some ways, but there’s honestly just as much of a chance that it could be every bit as much of a favorite for others. Ultimately I think the hooks are spectacular…I think the design itself is a lil’ artistic and avant-garde in a few aspects…and it’s that more adventurous, roaming approach to the verses that might have a couple listeners out there struggling a bit more to keep up or understand what their ears are supposed to latch onto at first – but in a couple spins, it’s going to the memorable hooks that leave the biggest impression. “Take It Slow” almost has that kind of like…Prince-esque magic to it…again, not quite a complete ballad, but the next thing closest…it’s like a preserved moment in time and a beautiful one at that, held up for us to marvel at and appreciate. And I recommend you “Take It Slow” when you’re doing that…listen to this cut a couple times over, let it work its magic on ya…let that vibe sink right in, because it’s worth it. There’s an allure to the sound of “Take It Slow” that no other track seems to have…Rian Music goes for a playfully sensual approach to this tune, and with the assistance of guest star Annalissa Jack in the mix to strengthen the beauty in the backing vocals, this song has all the moves of a successful Friday night in it, all you gotta do is turn the lights down low to match the mood & you should be all set. You’re welcome.
Joining Rian, James, and Victor on “Exit 7” is Flan, who adds a gentle & inviting melody into this tune. Lyrically, Rian Music has been using really impressive imagery throughout the words all over this record, and even though I felt like there were a couple spots where the tones could potentially come out a little more smoothly, the vast majority of the magic on “Exit 7” completely hits a homerun. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that of all the hooks we’ve experience on 4th St. so far, “Exit 7” might have the most memorable ones you’ll find to this point on the record…they’re fully accessible and stunningly universal. There’s arguably a more uneven spread between what people will love in the verse and chorus of this tune – and I can understand that…I think the majority of the strengths in “Exit 7” exist in the pre-chorus and chorus by far. Lyrically, “Exit 7” is a great tune from beginning…I think it’s exceptional for all the right reasons; it’s not that it doesn’t take itself seriously, it does – it’s just that the imagery in the words makes such a vivid connection to the thoughts in our head it feels like you can literally see the music and they’re not afraid to have a little bit of fun in the process with their words and the bounce in the sound.
When I first heard “Like A Light,” the first thought that came to my head was just how well-constructed each and every song on this album has been from the very start. Whether it’s your style of sound or not, you gotta admire things going completely right when you hear’em – and there’s no doubt that the inspiration and passion you’ll hear from Rian Music and the talented featured guests is stamped firmly all over this record. Shana Munson reappears in the background of “Like A Light” with a more dedicated role in the distance this time around, but she still makes a noticeable impact whenever her voice shows up. There’s a solid chance that a track like “Like A Light” is going to appeal most to the Tears For Fears or Go West era fans out there…but if you’re listening to cuts by The Editors these days, what you’ll hear on this track really isn’t that far removed from many things still happening & thriving in the mainstream today. “Like A Light” to me brings back some real classic vibes, but also keeps it fresh enough for today. Like I’ve been saying right from the drop though, each of these songs will present some sort of redeeming quality or moment that’ll pull you in…whether or not the verse of “Like A Light” necessarily stands out enough or not, I’m not entirely sure – but what I can tell you for a 100% fact, is that the sheer strength of the melody & hooks of the chorus is more than enough to secure enough love for this tune.
“Don’t Fall In Love” is a good song. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to knock on what’s basically flawless material and I’m not about to start inventing reasons to downplay what’s been really great music from the moment I pushed play. That being said…I do think that listeners might potentially notice “Don’t Fall In Love” being a bit more straight-ahead than the others, at least in structure if not by content. I wouldn’t go as far as to say typical, but perhaps maybe more easy for the band in terms of the uniqueness its capable of – that make sense? However, to be fair, when you’re listening to the words on “Don’t Fall In Love,” you would arguably really want a clean, simple, and sweet vibe to really bring out the sensory aspect of what this song can provide through the lyrics…and it’s impossible to say that this cut doesn’t get exactly what it needs in that regard. Lighthearted on the surface, “Don’t Fall In Love” offers the majority of its depth through the contrast of the lyricism…once you really start digging right into the core of this tune, you’ll hear it’s also got quite a few heartbreaking words in the mix as well. With the upbeat vibe in the music leading the way, “Don’t Fall In Love” becomes one of those fantastic tunes that you’ll start singing along with long, long before you realize everything that’s being sung about – it’s a far cry from anything miserable, but it would still be misleading to characterize this song as a happy tune, even with its fun & sunny disposition. But that’s the one of the best & most beautiful things about a song like this…they don’t trip the sensors of most listeners…it allows for concepts like this that appear simple to work in deeper meanings and retain the accessibility required to deliver the message.
Personally, I think “New Life” is an exceptional cut and a real strength on 4th St., though I suspect it’ll take a couple spins or two for most to fully appreciate what it brings to this album. A track like “New Life” doesn’t fight for your attention, it genuinely earns it through interesting composition and its depth of ideas & sound. Like every single song on this record, even if the whole of the concept or style wasn’t 100% appealing to you, there would still be something in the journey of listening that completely would be; every tune on 4th St. presents remarkably redeeming qualities that wouldn’t escape any set of ears. What “New Life” definitely has working in its favor, is another stand-out performance from a guest-star, this time courtesy of a radiant turn on the mic from Kay Rayne. Excellent harmonies on “New Life” lead to a shimmering & smooth sound that keeps us listening…gorgeous acoustic guitars in this tune as well; everything is very shiny and appealing, but also carries a weight to it that keeps this track grounded. Definitely one of the most well-constructed duets on the record, Kay sounds great alongside Rian Music and together they deliver on a genuinely soul-satisfying tune that slides right through your speakers.
Highly relevant for right now, “Diplomatic Skies” brings it back to the core three of Rian, Victor, and The Godfather – and I felt like they really found their way into a stellar moment on 4th St. with this song. Not quite a full ballad, not quite shiny enough to be fully Pop/Rock…”Diplomatic Skies” is another highlight example of how Rian Music earns your approval through seriously impressive songwriting. There’s no doubt that this is one of the more artistic and ambitious cuts on the album overall in my opinion…and I felt like the results here were memorable & remarkable in every way. To me and my ears, “Diplomatic Skies” is actually a single-worthy tune…which is bizarre for me to feel that way or that confident about any mid-tempo track when it comes right down to it, but that’s truly the case when it comes to this song. Hooks-wise, I honestly don’t think you’ll find stronger ones than what you’ll hear in the chorus of “Diplomatic Skies” – and even though their nestled inside of a much more delicate vibe, they’re more than bold enough to be remembered in-full. I’m sure I’m no different when it comes to how people hear it all…there’s a moment here & there where the vocals take a stylistic turn tone-wise that I’m not always 100% sure of, but conversely, when things go right for Rian Music, it’s completely spellbinding. I think there’s a lot of throwback sound on “Diplomatic Skies” that puts it somewhere between a Tom Petty tune and a track somewhere from the later stages of Duran Duran’s career…it’s one of the most vivid & outright cinematic songs on this whole record & I truly can’t say enough positive things about it.
AM Kidd brings the heat to the bars on the stylistically slick cut called “I’m Yours” towards the end of 4th St.’s lineup of tunes, creating a verifiable highlight for the fusion of skill & sound to be found throughout this record. Love the way this dude raps…big time confidence in this guy and it sounds seriously impressive…you can hear from the way he shifts his speed & speech that he can flex fast or slow with ease; it’s all about what the song calls for – and that’s precisely what AM Kidd will give ya. Saving this emcee for the end was a sly & smart move on behalf of Rian Music and the flow of this album – having AM Kidd appear over the course of the final two tracks definitely gave the finale of 4th St. added punch & personality that made a highly respectable impact. And while the main man on the mic fully delivers the goods – notice just how many voices are surrounding AM Kidd as he raps his way through “I Could Use You” – these extra details in the composition are magnificently impressive and give a song like this multiple advantages for its repeat value. Very rarely will you hear a song that seems as chill as this pack such a noteworthy amount of intensity at the same time…you can credit AM Kidd and the cleverness in this entire composition overall – you can audibly hear the passion for the craft all over this cut. From the smallest details to its biggest moments, everything about “I’m Yours” stacks up big-time into one of the most engaging, entertaining, and unique songs in the entire set of tunes on 4th St.
“When You’re Not Here” finishes the album on one last strong tune…which at this point, let’s face it, we weren’t really expecting anything different quality-wise were we? Rian Music has put the work in on this record and created a lineup of songs full of admirable uniqueness and pro-quality track after track – so to hear the whole thing wrap up on a final set of ideas with real depth was no surprise in that sense. Excellent combination of talents on the vocals once again here, from the lead to the background, from the singing to the rap from AM Kidd – “When You’re Not Here” stands out on multiple levels for the layers it has. Excellent fusion leads this last track to incredible success…smooth & stylistic lead vocals, graceful & beautiful female-driven backing vocals & hooks, really clever additional male backup vocals in there as well…I mean, c’mon y’all – you’ve got ears of your own – you can hear that this is one seriously stellar final cut. I’ve seen visible evidence of a few different variations on the lineup of songs on this record already circulating out there…but as far as I’m concerned, I think the one I’ve got is the one that really works. 4th St. has been a solid adventure in sound from beginning to end with plenty of diversity in sound and ideas along the way – and the way “When You’re Not Here” finishes it off, made for a powerful final moment that definitely makes you wanna repeat this entire experience all over again. Almost like a Depeche Mode cut infused with some INXS cool, alongside a Trip-Hop influenced vibe…whether or not it’s the final cut on the finalized lineup or not, “When You’re Not Here” is another stellar tune and its certainly one of many that you’ll find throughout this album – great job.
Find out more about Rian Music from the official homepage at: http://www.rianmusic.com