Solid Method – Blend In – EP Review
As slick as many of you solo-musicians out there truly are, I have to admit, most of the time when you’re doing it all on your own…we know. I don’t mean that in terms of you telling us about it or advertising – I mean that in the majority of scenarios, you’ll hear where the true strengths lie and certain elements where the artist in question feels the most comfortable…and likely, you’ll notice the instrumentation & parts in the writing where they’re not as settled-in, to put it nicely.
Anyhow…that’s a long & roundabout way of explaining that you won’t find that in Solid Method’s music…there aren’t any ups/downs in quality on this new EP called Blend In – the balance of creator Gillis Mejlycke’s capabilities is impeccable. As much as I listened to this new five-track EP and listened for a crack in his armor…a spot in the music where something came out noticeably flat or not as good as the rest of it was…but that really doesn’t exist here. Impressively, Gillis reveals himself to be an extraordinarily well-rounded musician on the Blend In EP, competently handling everything you hear with exception of the drums – the rest, vocals, harmonies, guitars, bass, keyboards…it’s all him on his own. There aren’t too many times where I feel like I could be fooled into thinking I was listening to a full-band while listening to the music of a solo-artist, but it’s purely because of Gillis’ high-level of execution from every angle concerned that you’d probably never know everything on Blend In was basically just one dude if you closed your eyes and listened. That’s an achievement in itself.
The new EP begins with the lead-single, “Flowing” – check the video out to get an idea & sample of the Solid Method sound so that we’re all on the same page here…and if you want to hear more about my thoughts on the video, be sure to check out the next episode of SBS Live This Week where we’ll have this project in the spotlight, play the video and talk a bit more about what’s happening here. For now, give it a click while you’re here and have a listen…and then keep on reading these thoughts on Blend In.
Note those SWEET post-grunge chords that start-up “Flowing” right away – I love that sound. Musically, it’s the kind of style that borrows its influence from the grunge-era, but infuses even more of the pop-inclinations the genre began to include as it got older. As a result, we ended up with bands and artists like Cage The Elephant, Blur and The Dandy Warhols that began to explore the depths of hooks while still keeping those guitars cranked-up in a way that induced that crossover appeal – which is the same kind of method being applied to “Flowing” by Solid Method. Right from that first progression and rip of the guitars, hooks are immediately on display…the bass comes in to magnificently fill in the strengths of the groove, the vocals do a great job of providing another layer of melody overtop as the verse plays on. The roots of influence that can be traced back to the grunge-era are exposed even further as Gillis punches into the chorus with a transition into a controlled thrash in the music and edge in his vocals. Around the 2:40 mark when the guitar solo begins after a solid scream, you get another real dose of what true grunge was always about…the perfect solo. That doesn’t mean Solid Method goes shredding off into the sunset – it doesn’t have to be a virtuoso performance, it just needs to be the right fit for the song and that’s where this particular solo really hits the mark. Undeniably, it’s excellent energy and a rhythmic start to Blend In that’s fully loaded with hooks from the vocals to the music, great pace and versatile movements in the structure lead to explosive and impressive moments that make an impact. “Flowing” gets Blend In started off right…it’s like…alternative groove-rock…serious, but fun too.
“Entangled” sends Solid Method in a completely different direction, more along the lines of indie-rock here…closer to a Band Of Horses-meets-R.E.M. – a somewhat unexpected switch in sound after what you get in the opening track. Always a solid move to make this kind of switch early-on in a set-list if that’s going to be important later on…you want to establish that freedom of creativity & sound by letting the people know that things can constantly change upfront on a record, it helps the ears accept. You’ll find that Solid Method has a couple of main gears on this EP…the in-your-face rock mode and the more gentle, subtle approach to melody like you’ll find on “Entangled.” Lyrically, Gillis has done a great job on this cut…you can feel the weight of the words in the thick of the melody and I thought he did an incredible job of drifting this song’s verse right into the chorus the way he does through the words. It gives “Entangled” a real logical & comforting flow to its sound, and of course Gillis has found a way to make it all sound more sincere on the microphone as well to make the energy in the music. The key switch is around the 2:30-mark…an excellent bridge & switch in the sound for a moment before heading back into the smoothness of the song’s verse & chorus, adding in additional highlights on the keyboards that become more present as the song heads to its ending.
With a badass burst of feedback, “Blasting Out” is born kicking & screaming. Here’s a real example of a track that would likely convince you this entire Solid Method sound is being created by a full band…yet as we already know, it’s not – and that’s impressive for a song as big and full as this is. It can be a bit tougher to find the magic that makes “Blasting Out” work so well…it takes a couple listeners to figure it out – but the real hook & pull of this song is coming through the performance in the background. Guitars are great, drums are solid AF, bass is right on target…no issues there…but vocal-wise, it gets progressively better and better. While it takes about three-minutes for the lead to bust out of its controlled style, Gillis is fully letting the beast loose in the backing layers of vocals that come along with the lead the entire way through – and that’s what’s making the difference. I’m not entirely sure that we don’t want that to become the lead…you know…from a listener’s perspective; I think the layers work – but it’s really that electrifying performance that’s buried in behind that makes “Blasting Out” memorable and maybe having that more upfront like it is towards the end could make a greater impact. Hard to say…you always want the songs you write to have somewhere to evolve, expand and grow towards…”Blasting Out” is structured to currently give you that growth as you listen and by saving some of the most powerful moments vocally, you get those continual rewards as you take this in. I just can’t help but wonder that if Gillis had kept himself unchained the entire time and let those most energetic and throat-ripping parts of the vocals come alive more in the beginning, would it have made “Blasting Out” a bit more of an even match for the hooks in the music? It might have…again, hard to say for sure.
I do think that it’s interesting that the first two songs chosen for singles/videos represent the more grunge-side of Solid Method’s sound, especially when you consider how evenly split the sound of Blend In is between that style and its lighter indie-rock sound. Likely, it has a lot to do with confidence…Gillis writes well in all the modes he’s written in – but now it’s about believing that the lighter-side has come out just as strongly, which it certainly has. Essentially, what I’m saying is…perhaps were it not for his own perception of what the sound is or is supposed to be…maybe he’d realize that the most single-worthy and accessible song on the entire EP is likely the fourth track, called “Don’t You Know.” As far as any solitary part of any song on this whole record is concerned, the chorus of “Don’t You Know,” to me, is inarguably the strongest melody he’s got and likely the most accessible to everyone out there. I think as far as Gillis’ vocals are concerned as well, this is him at his absolute best – and he sounds fantastic on this cut from beginning to end. Love the way he’s got the guitars back into the mix for the final forty-seconds as well to amp-up the last moments that extra 10% – he’s got them threaded into the mix perfectly to complement the rest of the song and not take it all over. Those moments of a finale can sometimes really take an artist/band right into the spotlight – where Gillis really succeeds on “Don’t You Know” is in knowing that this entire SONG deserves to be the focus, and so even when he adds more to it, it’s supporting the stunning main idea overall and not trying to change or dominate what’s already going on.
I’m just saying Gillis…if the reason “Don’t You Know” isn’t the single is all about being worried that those friends of yours will find out that you don’t completely ‘rock’ at all moments and write the occasional tender & gentle melody & song…well…embrace it brother – I think there’s a great chance this is the best tune from the record and it’s certainly one I wanted to hear again and again.
“Mind Wanderer” wraps up the EP with a solid idea and some noticeable trouble in production by comparison to the others with a slightly dusty mix on this record’s final tune. As I’d mentioned earlier, this record shows a lot of balance between its grunge & indie inclinations – and chances are, none of the songs represent the fusion between them better than this last song does. It’s not the hardest Solid Method has sounded, it’s not the softest either – it’s right in the middle…and I think that’ll increase the appeal. There’s not much doubt in my mind that the first 40 seconds needs to be re-examined for sure – I think I get the idea of keeping the sound more distant and then bringing it back to a more present & upfront sound…but I think there’s some mud in the mix of this final cut that’s working against “Mind Wanderer” and the potential it has. Its moments of clarity sound great in the verse…but even that one layer of guitar coming back into the chorus seems to fuzz this one up beyond the level most people would readily accept, making it tougher to enjoy what would probably be otherwise easily digested hooks the masses would love. That scream! Gillis really has the ‘it’ factor when it comes to his most powerful moments…again, I think it just all comes down to confidence and belief here…the more he’s let go of control on Blend In, the better he’s sounded when he’s on the rock-side of his sound. Same is true but in reverse for the softer & melodic-side of his material…the more he focuses there, the better the results came out…and with songs like “Don’t You Know” & “Entangled” it becomes about believing that this second-dimension to his main sound is just as valid as anything he’s done in rock, if not more-so.
Bottom line for me is that I had a great time listening to this EP and think most people out there would as well…there’s a range of styles & sounds that have sharp hooks with a lot of appeal to the ears and crossover potential working in its favor all over the place. Blend In is a solid record with great ideas – all impressively executed & performed by the ONE man in-charge, Gillis Mejlycke, with all the passion and energy they deserve. I’d definitely be interested in hearing more from Solid Method, without question.
I’ll be talking about Blend In by Solid Method more on today’s episode of SBS Live This Week – be sure to tune in! I might even play a video from Solid Method for ya…or two!
For now, find the music and information on Solid Method at the links below!
Google Play: http://bit.ly/BiEPgM
Official Homepage: http://www.SolidMethodMusic.com