Trevor James – Breakthrough – EP Review
I’ll say this with complete conviction – Trevor James is about to go 4/4 here in the lineup of songs he’s got on his debut EP Breakthrough from 2020.
Hold on a second now…I haven’t told ya whether or not that’s a GOOD thing or a BAD thing yet…
…gotta add a LITTLE suspense into these reviews, don’t I?
Alright, I’ll quit messing around here – I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about Trevor’s music and it’ll be pretty hard to hide that once things get rolling along here, so I may as well out myself now. More than impressed with how this record has gone for him – there is something verifiably special in each and every one of these tunes that points towards massive potential & a successful future in music.
Especially if we’re considering this as a debut…a first impression…at least for most of us. From what I can find out there online, Trevor initially put out a modest handful of cover tunes online at his Soundcloud page, then spent the majority of the time in between here & there rockin’ at YouTube through a series of other cover songs that reveal a wide range of styles & sound from the classics to the modern day. You can tell from the lineup you’ll find at YouTube that he’s got his thing like everyone else does when it comes to what it is that moves him in music…much similar to my own taste, the dominant trait between everything you’ll find comes down to melody-driven tunes. In any event, from everything I can see & as far as I can tell, the Breakthrough EP is the professional debut from this “singer of songs.”
I gotta admit…no matter where I seemed to turn online this guy brought a smile to my face while I was looking into his music. From that tiny quote above culled from his page at Instagram, to the fact that this guy has got a bio less than twenty-five words long at his Spotify page that is 100% better than anything I could have written myself – it reads: “From Effort, Pennsylvania kinda near Scranton (you know, like from The Office). Loves sunsets, scary movies, and cakey brownies. Also makes music on occasion.” If you’re laughing, good – you should be, that’s the way it was written…and it’s brilliant. It’s also from what I can tell, yet another part of what indicates Trevor James is one heck of a great guy; not just a tremendously gifted artist, but you can tell that inside & outside of the music, he’s got personality.
Now. Just because I’m in this dude’s corner doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say or some advice for the future – I do, and as always, I’ll simply call this as I hear it. For instance – I think “Look Away” is probably my least favorite song on this record (I still love it though!) and it starts the whole experience! How dare you Trevor James!?! Listen – I’m giving him a hard time, because you’ll find precious little, if anything, to complain about at all here…so I’ve gotta have some fun with this guy, right? I mean…when you listen for yourself, you’ll hear the X-factor in James, and you’ll hear just how well these songs on his debut EP have come out…and for many of you, the only conclusion that can be derived is “how is this even FAIR?” The most you’ll find me conceding here is that Trevor’s not recreating the wheel – but big freakin’ deal y’all…if that was the criteria for making great music, 99.9% of the bands & artists out there would be ruled out altogether. What’s important, to me, is the same as it’s always been from day one – sincerity, passion, commitment, conviction…these are the things that matter in making an impression that’ll last…and they’re the same ingredients that make great songwriting hold up over time. Trevor has boatloads of talent for making music – you can hear it from every one of these tunes, “Look Away” certainly included in that. Ultimately, it’s the best choice he could have made to start this EP and I’d never claim otherwise – I think he’s got a track here that shows enough of that genuine spark he’s got in the magic of his music to get us interested enough without even remotely thinking of simply skipping ahead. You wanna hear where this goes; you’re enticed by the refreshing energy in his vocals & melody, and if you’re listening like me, you’re immediately impressed by the way he’s got his harmonies goin’ on. Quite often it’ll be what’s happening in the details and in the way Trevor’s got the layers of vocals in his music reacting & responding to each other that makes a huge difference to how much you’ll find what appears to be fairly straightforward, actually has a ton of clever choices being made to make an impact. All-in-all, “Look Away” has a highly memorable main hook, the execution is completely there, and Trevor makes a positive impression on us all through a mix of contrasting emotions and stellar melody on track one. Most importantly, every other track on this record will continue to build on this exceptional start.
I would be pretty inclined to be taking a look at “Rendezvous” as the lead-single to put out to entice the people into listening to this record if I was Trevor – overall, there’s an argument to be made that this is the EP’s crown jewel right here. What I’m not saying is, that it has the record’s most undeniable hook – that’s still yet to come – but in terms of balance of strengths from start to finish, this song is 100% bang-on, and you couldn’t have asked a thing more out of James & the way he sings & plays it. While there’s no doubt that the energy in the chorus provides your ears with that payload that raises the stakes in the way you wanna hear – you’ve gotta give credit to Trevor for designing a song that couldn’t possibly lose your interest no matter what part you’re listening to. Great energy in the music with depth straight off the bat…solid grip on the verses as “Rendezvous” begins to ramp-up…Trevor’s somewhere in the middle of bands like Thriving Ivory and All-American Rejects here, and that more than works for me personally. You get that highly-melodic dose of purely radiant sound pouring out from every pore in your speakers – and the way Trevor scales up the way he sings his way through this chorus has this cut reach captivating proportions…this is where you begin to realize the massive scope of his talent & potential at once. The technique, the tone, the sincerity, the power & energy he needs…absolutely everything is in the right place on “Rendezvous,” and he even gives this a fully rad synth-infusion towards the end to cap it all off.
BUT. Now here we are. “Only.” And this is where things change, completely.
Believe me when I say, I love it when this happens. Here’s the thing…you’re gonna listen to the Breakthrough EP…and you’re gonna like “Look Away” or even love it…then you’ll hear “Rendevous” and likely love that for sure…and then when “Only” starts up, you’ll realize you hadn’t even heard half of how amazing Trevor can potentially be, until now. While I’d still fight you or anyone ya know tooth & nail that “Rendezvous” is the best choice as a potential single to put out from this record – the verse on “Only” is by far and away the biggest hook you’ll find in any one tune on this EP, and a full reveal of just how outstanding Trevor James can really be when he sings. It’s as black & white as it gets at this point of the record – there’s something about the sound of his voice that goes from good to great instantly as “Only” begins…and “Only” Trevor’s going to be the one that really knows what it is that’s generating that difference, but what we can all agree on I’m sure is that he’s pure perfection as he sings this song. Whatever it is my brother, harness it, bottle it up, and sell it by the milliliter to the masses my friend…because there’s millions to be made and pure gold in the magic you’re creating here Trevor – the verses of “Only” have the gravitational pull of an entire planet. I am not going to say that the chorus doesn’t quite live up to expectations or the hopes you’ll have after hearing the outstanding verses on “Only” – but there’s no doubt the rest of this cut plays a secondary role by comparison. There’s definitely no reason to complain about a single second of what you’ll hear – that much is without question. All I’m saying is that what’s happening in the verses of “Only” is pretty much the reason I get out of bed every day – I love, love, LOVE the way Trevor sings this part of the song – and ultimately, the whole thing – but the way he starts nailing it from moment one, is “bringing out the best” in him – the chorus is more confirmation that he can hold onto the magic for the duration of an entire track without the quality ever dropping off in the songwriting, performance, or production. If I’m not mistaken, it sounds like he’s not alone when it comes to the background vocals…though I suppose that could be a clever twist in the production…whatever he’s done there in the chorus certainly works, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that it actually IS the chorus of “Only” that people will likely remember most, but that doesn’t make what I’ve claimed about the verses untrue, trust me on that. You’ll hear it when you listen to it…that’s as stellar of a melody as you’ll ever hope to find when you push play on a record out there – in my opinion, it’s night & day – it’s the verses of “Only” and the way that Trevor sings this song with such heart that confirms he’s got all the right talent & skills required to take him as far as he wants to go in this music business now that he’s arrived.
“I’ve Always Loved You” is another stellar example of his subtle songwriting & sound, and how refined it already is this early on into his career. The recipe is simple here, but highly effective – and much like how the EP began to impress us initially, Trevor will use the background atmosphere as brilliantly as he does with the lead. It makes a huge difference when it comes to more stripped-down, bare-bones melodies like this…it’s also what shows the depth in his material, and how his attention to detail has been second to none in making sure that these songs come out shining every time. Vocals contribute in countless ways to the success of this final cut, from the lead to the background, it’s the main melodies from the microphone that guide you along sweetly through the conclusion of the Breakthrough EP. I’m more than impressed by how well all of these tracks have suited Trevor, and “I’ve Always Loved You” certainly speaks volumes on behalf of, a dude that’s clearly got a lot of love in his heart, and the willingness to express it out loud in the music he makes…and rightly so he should. His vocals have been spectacularly on-point throughout this whole lineup of songs, and really carries the weight in this last experience overall. It probably has the most defined vibe of all the cuts this side of “Rendezvous,” in terms of how there might be more of a time where Trevor’s fans will reach for this particular track than others to soothe and console them at a moment where they need a lil’ bit of sweetness & sincerity through their speakers…as in, “I’ve Always Loved You” isn’t gonna be played at your Friday night ragers, but for those out there looking for a peaceful moment of melodic magic, this will hit the mark for ya. Don’t get it twisted though folks…Trevor’s only competing against himself already…every track on this EP he’s got here is a verifiable A-side on almost any other record you’re gonna find by a singer/songwriter out there in any corner of the scene. He should be extremely proud with what he’s accomplished in this tight set of four tunes on Breakthrough…and considering it’s his official debut record, he should honestly be just as impressed and blown away by what he’s achieved as we are. Remember you heard it here first folks – Trevor James has got serious potential and incredible capabilities…and if he keeps the quality of his performances & songwriting up to this level, believe me when I say we’ll all be knowing his name and hearing it a whole bunch over these next years to follow.
Find out more about Trevor James from the official pages below!
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!