Alrighty…where’s the ON button and how the heck do I do this stuff again…

Many thanks to you all out there in music-land, I appreciate your patience while we packed up and moved the whole location of sleepingbagstudios during what has pretty much been the freakin’ hottest days of summer so far.  You know I wouldn’t duck out on ya without being sure we’d have something completely badass for ya upon our return, and so a huge ALL-CAPS THANK-YOU to THE GRIN LINES for supplying the audible awesomeness that fit the bill…this whole sixteen track record is straight-up WILD.

So VOILA, just like that, we’re back in action.  I’ve been lucky enough to have had this record for a while now, but now that I’ve got all my boxes in place and my couches moved & shit, I can finally let you in on this Art/Punk project I’ve been listening to.  You’d probably have to be in my line of work to fully grasp how excited I get when ‘Art’ is listed as a genre, and how scary ‘Punk’ can be when it’s such a hit or miss style of music in the independent realm.  Make no mistake though…I put on “IN YOU GO” and within seconds, I immediately knew that I was in for something I’d love.  The giant drum sounds…the crackling frequencies & mysterious melodic noises…the brilliantly distorted vocals & cleverly sparing lyrics…the radiant COLOR in the whole vibe…I’m tellin’ ya…we’re talking about a Beck-level of genius that you’ll find in Chloe Navarre, the man behind the music in THE GRIN LINES.  Radiating outta your speakers right from the drop of pushing play, it’s crystal clear this is the kind of sonic strangeness that has huge appeal.

Call it Art/Punk or whatever ya like really…what Chloe is doing is genuinely beyond categorization, and I frickin’ hate genres anyway – all I know is that this JAMS.  Is a song like the title-track “VOILA” gonna be for everybody?  Heck no it is not…but Navarre already knew that going into making this record.  What will actually be surprising, is that this album will probably hook way more people in than perhaps would be expected.  Yes it’s weird, yes it’s wild, but YES – it’s also wonderful in a riotously addictive way, and I’d be way more shocked to find people not digging this digitally-enhanced bizarreness than the vast many out there that will.  “VOILA” is somewhat of a reference to that moment of epiphany as far as I can tell…that moment where you recognize the you that you are, and decide to go right down the rabbit-hole to see what you’re capable of.  Mentally, physically, heck – metaphorically even…”VOILA” is about “a moment of self-discovery,” and the sound mirrors the intensity of feeling like you want that.  So, yes…it’s scattered and seems like it’s all over the place in a way…but you’ll also notice how it snaps into a clarity that exists only when we tap into a kind of knowledge that feels like it has been a part of us all along.  “VOILA” is like the yin & yang, all in one…”the moment of arrival” and the aftermath it creates.

The creative freedom and artistic integrity this album possesses is freakishly staggering.  “BELONGING” is a perfect example of how a low-key moment in this record can still be equally intense, bold, and beautiful.  Armed with lyrics that might strike you as simple for a moment or two, until you dig right into what’s being communicated and how it’s phrased…Navarre is extremely smart with how he uses his words in the music he’s making, and I’m absolutely HERE. FOR. IT.  The most you’re gonna find me conceding to ya is that the first two tracks on this album are probably a bit more up my own alley…but I’d also readily admit that, every time we pass the 1:10 mark in this song and the harmonies and background vocals start to light up the atmosphere on “BELONGING,” or the subtle instrumentation works its magic just a bit further down the road…every time I hear that, I’m like “fuck yeah – this song COMPETES” – know what I mean?  There’s a whole lot less to “BELONGING” if we’re examining the cut’s DNA, yet like the true chef Chloe is, he’s served up maximum results by using minimal ingredients here.

PRO-TIP…if you find yourself wishing you had a whole lot more of “SLOW EMOTION,” feel free to play it like, nine-to-twelve times on repeat to get yourself a three-to-four minute long song instead!  Do it up!  No judgments here yo…if that’s how you wanna spend your time, it’s easy to push that loop button and have at’er hoss.  I’ll say this…I’m somewhat surprised that the idea doesn’t go any further than it does – clearly Chloe was onto a wicked groove and could have definitely kept that goin’ if he wanted to, but at the same time, I think “SLOW EMOTION” is a good reminder to expect the unexpected from this dude, and the few lyrics we get seem to echo the heart of the mission overall:  “I’ll take all night if I have to.”

Dude’s a musical renegade y’all…that’s what it is, that’s how this is playing out…and if you want my advice, I’d say this album provides ya with the litmus test that’ll show you how cool YOU are.  If you get into VOILA, you’re on the right side of creativity, art, and music.  If you can’t get into VOILA, you’re probably lookin’ to incubate in your shell where it’s safe a little longer than the rest of us, that’s all.  And that’s OKAY…be patient…evolution works in mysterious ways, and Chloe’s proving that, track after track.  That being said…chances are, you’ll find you have no problem at all getting into the colorful rhythm and groove of “SECOND PLACE” no matter what you normally listen to.  As far as I understand it, this whole album is DIY…everything you hear from the concept to the execution, music, mixing, mastering, all that – it’s all him…and it is an extraordinary achievement all-around.  Because as much as I would readily tell ya that “SECOND PLACE” is exceptional for the keyboard melody, background vocals, lyrics, or the punch in the drum sounds…ultimately, I’d tell ya that the way things are produced & mixed are just as enticing the song itself, you follow me?  It’s not just a case of what we hear being amazing, it’s how we hear it – Navarre has got the album’s details dialed-in perfectly…and by track five, I was hopelessly addicted to it.

Even amidst what most folks would probably recognize as a complete & total psychological breakdown on “FEEDBACK,” you gotta admit, everything that you’re listening to stands out for one reason or another.  Like I was tellin’ ya at the start, THE GRIN LINES ain’t gonna be for everyone, but whether we wanna admit it or not, that’s true of all music no matter how accessible something is or isn’t.  Personally, I’m into artists/bands that wanna see what else can be done with the art of making music that pushes it beyond verse/chorus/verse, or something that we can easily all sing along to.  Don’t get me wrong, that can all be great music to listen to as well, but if we’re really talking about the craft and the art of it, then something like “FEEDBACK” should be recognized for doing things differently.  It’s abrasive, intense, and unapologetic…Chloe is committed to every single second of this record, and above all things, that’s probably what makes listening to it so freakin’ marvelous.  I like my shit strange, yes…and even I’d admit, “FEEDBACK” ain’t gonna be an every day track for me…but I’ll know exactly when I wanna reach for a song as proudly bizarre as this is, and beyond that, it’s ridiculously memorable.

If you wanna know what IS a track I’d wanna listen to every day, it’s more along the lines of “IN YOU GO,” or “WAIT IN GOLD” just prior to the halfway mark.  “WAIT IN GOLD” is bloody brilliant…straight-up cinematic, cosmic, dramatic, and like…I dunno…western-tinged, or influenced by science-fiction at the same time.  I absolutely love the way the vocals have come out on this track, and I’m equally jazzed about the lyrics…that little laugh that Chloe adds into this three-line song is outright CRUCIAL to really getting to the heart of its sentiment and what Navarre is saying on “WAIT IN GOLD.”  It’d be a moment that would likely fly by the majority of ya if I didn’t point it out, and now I have, so you’re welcome.

There are so many short moments of pure creative brilliance all throughout this record, “LORD HALF MERCY” being another prime example.  When you listen to the way these tunes are constructed and put together, it’s really quite something, especially for tracks like this one that are under two-minutes long.  I’ll always be the first to admit that I’m probably the guy that’s still on the fence about songs of that length…I’m always like, can’t we find a way to get twice as much awesomeness or double it all up somehow…but to be honest with ya, my thinking on that is fairly old-school at this point in where we’re at and how music is consumed.  People dig on the short bursts, and let’s be real here – we’ve either got less time overall, or we spend less of it dedicated to actually listening…no matter how you stack it up, the short tracks seemed to be accepted for a variety of reasons.  I just write longer now, so that when you realize it probably took you more time to read about “LORD HALF MERCY” than it did to listen to it, we can all have a good laugh about how far society has fallen later on.  Anyhow.  Chloe’s a wicked singer, a stellar songwriter, a genuinely gifted musical mind overall, and he’s catering to the weirdness of my palette through his exquisite attention to detail.  “LORD HALF MERCY” is filled with vibrant noise & cleverness to be found from start to finish…as much as I might want a ‘LORD FULL MERCY,’ I’ll take half if half is what I get because the half that we’re getting is that fuckin’ rad that I’ve got no real choice.

Some of these extremely short cuts, like “SLOW EMOTION” and “FOOL ME TWICE” reveal more than just kickass hooks – they prove that, if Chloe chose to go left instead of right, he absolutely could.  As in, we’re lucky to have him on the artistic side of sound when he could clearly go the commercialized route and simply rake in the cash if that’s what he was inclined to do.  “FOOL ME TWICE” is relentlessly catchy for a song that’s not even a minute long, and I can pretty much guarantee it’s cooler than more than half of whatever’s on your playlist right now.  Could THE GRIN LINES have expanded this into a three-minute or four-minute track that’d be a single?  Sure!  But just because something can be done, doesn’t always mean that it should be done, even in a situation like “FOOL ME TWICE” where you want a whole lot more.  Like I recommended to ya back when I was ranting about “SLOW EMOTION” earlier on, you’ve got the freedom to loop tracks on repeat if you wanna in this day and age…it ain’t like you’re picking up the ol’ record needle trying to drop it onto the precise spot like the cavemen used to, you feel me?  All that being considered…I think it’s still also fair to say that Chloe’s gotta be a bit careful about not just tossing an idea out the window too quickly too…most artists & bands out there would have written an entire album around this one hook of “FOOL ME TWICE,” which is something to think about I suppose…

It’s funny how the brain can work, and how it doesn’t sometimes.  From the moment I put this record on for the first time and heard “IN YOU GO” come out swinging with such big sound and noticeable flavor to it, I felt like the Beck comparison was warranted…but there was another comparison that my rusted brainwaves was trying to recall, and it actually wasn’t until I heard “ART IS FROM FRANCE” that it finally came to me.  It’s not even necessarily that accurate in terms of a sounds-like…more like the kind of impact that it made…that make any sense?  “IN YOU GO” reminded me a lot of how “Je Ne M’en Souviens Pas” put me in the mood to hear anything/everything on Better Than Ezra’s How Does Your Garden Grow way back in the day, simply because it was so incredibly different and vivid and awesome.  “IN YOU GO” has that same incredible magic to it in its own weird way, which is what I’m trying to say…and YES…it’s because I’m sitting here listening to a completely different song called “ART IS FROM FRANCE” that I’m realizing this, clearly because of the association between France and a French title.  You see?  You get it now?  The brain is a weird & wonderful thing folks…wear your helmets when you skateboard and protect them things…they’re fairly necessary.  Anyhow.  I’ve gotten way off track here, because I’m always happy to figure out the strange references & similarities my brain is trying to communicate, and we’ve achieved victory y’all…so we’re moving on.  “ART IS FROM FRANCE” is one of my absolute favorites on VOILA…it’s like what you’d get if you could somehow combine Sparklehorse, Pavement, and Grandaddy all in one.  The theme of this song seems like it’s based on some well-intentioned advice that Chloe has no intention of ever adhering to…that’s my theory.  Love this track.

I’d probably have to be in a certain mood to enjoy “SCATTERBRAIN” at maximum potential.  Don’t get me wrong, most of the time, I’m in that mood…but yeah…I could see this being a track that is more for some days than for others, you feel me?  Like, if I was just on one of those kicks where I’ve been listening to “Ventolin” by Aphex Twin on repeat for hours, followed by all-things-by Venetian Snares, I could see myself lining up a healthy course of “SCATTERBRAIN” in that same playlist.  Y’all know me – I like noise, I like weirdness, I am all for anything that ain’t normal and went years telling people the only music I listened to sounded like a broken answering machine…so for sure, “SCATTERBRAIN” is still a track that I’d dig, even if it ain’t exactly a song for yo momma.  It’s got bizarre textures, strange uneasy tones, voices coming from the lefts & rights, and a scream-like moment that’s practically a sound-spike – look…it’s probably a challenging listen for most, but one worth the effort.  This is how you develop your palette and culture yourself with the weird…in the end, you’re better for having taken the ride, 100%.

Like, personally, I’d be way more on the fence about “KEEPING UP APPEARANCES” than I would be about “SCATTERBRAIN.”  In the end, I’m probably still gonna side with THE GRIN LINES and the sublime instincts for strangeness that seem inherent to Navarre’s style & lyricism, so yeah, I mean, I’d keep this song too – but I felt like it was about ninety-seconds or so before I became convinced this would be the right kind of different for me.  Don’t get me wrong…there’s an argument to be made that “KEEPING UP APPEARANCES” might actually be one of the more accessible tracks on the album if I’m being honest with ya…but yeah…I dunno…to me, it just felt a little below the incredible standards that have already been set by comparison.  Having said that, I get to the instrumentation/solo around the 1:50 mark and feel like one day I’ll regret not loving this track as instantly as I did with the rest, and I wouldn’t deny that there’s a great chance this will grow on me more too.  That’s the thing about the songs we don’t think we like or love as much at first, they’ve got more room to gain our affections over time and often do.  What always blows my mind in hearing an album like VOILA, is that there are practically ten songs before this cut that I WISH were the length “KEEPING UP APPEARANCES” was, and yet this is the track that gets past the three minute mark for only the second time on VOILA so far.  Go figure that one I guess, but as I always remind ya, it’s our differences in perspective that keep this planet goin’ round.  I still dig it…don’t get it twisted y’all…it’s just not really my favorite of the bunch, and that’s it, that’s all.

“THERE YOU ARE” plays like the second-half or sweet second cousin of “IN YOU GO,” and to be real with ya, this track actually has a noteworthy amount of beauty to it.  I think for THE GRIN LINES, that can be a tougher word to use to describe what you’re hearing…I can hear the beauty in composition, ideas, and structure all day long…but in terms of smoothness and sweetness, Chloe hasn’t always shown us that side as willingly on VOILA.  “THERE YOU ARE” proves that beauty can be just as much of a priority if that’s what he wants to do.  Like I’ve been tellin’ ya from the drop of pushing play on this album, this dude is a straight-up genius…I’ve been in this game long enough to know one when I hear one, and Navarre’s got something the rest just don’t & would never understand.  It’s completely up to him as to which kind of music he’s gonna want to make, but at the end of the day, I firmly believe he’s capable of anything he puts his mind to.  “THERE YOU ARE” is another one of this album’s truly undeniable best.

As I’ve said hundreds of times over the years, there are about two perfect albums over the length of twelve tracks.  Everything beyond that mark, probably needs to have a healthy dose of objectivity in the mix somewhere…an outside perspective, or some time and distance to appreciate where the gold is, and conversely, where it isn’t.  Like…”KEEPING UP APPEARANCES” might be a good song, might be a great song, and it might just not measure up – I don’t honestly know yet.  What I can tell ya, is that it’s pretty much the only track that had me wondering in that regard, when none of the others did.  “BUBBLEDUCK” had me feeling a similar way.  Not a bad tune, but not necessarily Chloe’s greatest either.  I like the floaty/dreamy vibe it has, but there’s not a ton to it beyond that.  The mix and the production are great, the attention to detail is still completely intact too…but there’s just not really very much here that warrants repeating, you know what I mean?  Good for a moment, but harder to justify with repeat spins over time.  We all get so wrapped up in the process of creating…“BUBBLEDUCK” likely should have been on the chopping block this time around, if only for the sake of keeping the record as tight as tight can be.  Again, it’s not a bad cut by any measure; it’s just harder to stand out at this point.

“BALLAD OF A SHORT KING” actually has a lot of Radiohead-esque properties to it if you’re judging it by the music alone…very along the lines of stuff you’d find on OK Computer, which is certainly cool with me.  Vocally, you get a much different pairing with that whole vibe, and it’s kind of a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, you get a sound that may/may not work for the people out there listening in this particular pairing on a tonal level…and on the other hand, you get some of Chloe’s absolute best vocals on a performance front.  So it’s a bit of a trade-off, and sometimes we make those as artists & musicians.  I might not be as confident in “BALLAD OF A SHORT KING” when it comes to the material overall, but you better believe I’d hand Chloe an award for the way that he sings it, see what I mean?  I might absolutely LOVE the music on this track, and be less convinced that the vocals were necessary, but I’d never take anything away from such a significant breakthrough moment that reveals what a force this dude is to be reckoned with on the mic…Navarre is one hell of a singer when it comes right down to it.  You don’t have to take my word for it y’all…have a listen to “BALLAD OF A SHORT KING” for yourself, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  Chloe’s singing at an all-star level on this track and sounds 100% phenomenal – not just good, but entirely great.  Do I wish that it all paired a bit better with the stellar music he’s got on this track?  You betcha.  I can compartmentalize…I can appreciate what each aspect of this song excels at individually, but yeah man, I’ll admit, overall it seemed like “BALLAD OF A SHORT KING” was still missing something while showing us everything at the same time.  Not too often that you run into this kind of a scenario, where everything is great yet still doesn’t quite seem to fit, but here we are and that’s the case.  Lots of quality ideas along the way, don’t get me wrong, but it still felt like this track was in search of that piece that would inarguably stitch both of its main halves together as one.

I like the low-key nature of “HOW YOU PLEASE” but I’d again be the first to admit that I’m probably not as sure that Chloe has continued to further the album at this point, and at a robust sixteen tracks, there are three out of the last five that don’t seem to quite hit that level of inspiration we find at the very start.  “HOW YOU PLEASE” sounds like it could be the start of an even better idea to follow, and the vocals are the star of the show once again…but before we get to experience whatever that might be, it ends around the 1:20 mark, allowing you about thirty-seconds of time before YE OLDE HIDDEN TRACK makes itself known.  I’m probably more partial to that if I’m being truthful with ya, but much similar to how “HOW YOU PLEASE” played out, it seemed like the hidden track was just gettin’ goin before it all just ended instead, musically blue-ballin’ each and every one of us.  Here’s what I’ll tell ya that others won’t though – it’d be practically impossible to want to stop making a record like this, and in that sense, we’re actually fortunate that Chloe called it quits at sixteen & a half tracks, because this could have theoretically gone on forever with the creativity you’ll find on display throughout this record.  What you wanna avoid is the watering down of what’s incredible, but it’s so hard to stop making more music when you truly love the path that you’ve found yourself on.  In Navarre’s case, that path leads in pretty much every direction, but the key is remaining as objective as possible to narrow things down just a tiny bit and keep things as cohesive as you can, even when the music seems to take you anywhere/everywhere.

I’m a big fan of what I’ve found here on VOILA though…the songs are hella short, but the experience has been beyond memorable…dude’s insanely talented beyond my own human comprehension – I’d listen to absolutely anything by THE GRIN LINES without hesitation and that includes this very album, anytime.

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