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Graham Colton - Pacific Coast Eyes
Reviewed by: Gregory Robson (06/25/11)
Graham Colton - Pacific Coast Eyes
Record Label: NoiseTrade
Release Date: June 20, 2011

Graham Colton isn't going to write songs that change the world. He's also not going to write songs that make music pundits swoon and gush. He writes songs for the common man about common themes: love lost, love gained, hopes, fears, dreams, etc. It's not heady stuff and it's not overly intelligent. It's simple, homespun, warmly crafted pop-rock, primed and ready for outlets such as VH1, Lifetime movies and the American cineplex. His latest album, Pacific Coast Eyes, is arguably his best but it may also be the album where music listeners begin to wonder just how safe is Colton playing it?

Album opener "Loves Come Back Around," is laid back and subdued. Think Jon Foreman or Joshua Radin. For those that are familiar with Colton's work, the song is a bit of a departure and a stab at something different. More Californian and less Oklahoman. More subdued and cerebral, less urgent and immediate. But more on that later.

Second cut "Waiting for Love," is without a doubt, one of the best songs Colton has ever written. Commercial, crisp and without a flaw, it has everything it takes to be a potential smash on Top 40 charts across the country. The chilled-out groove of the title track revisits the Californian vibe of "Love Come Back Around," but goes a bit deeper, marrying a catchy title with some samples and such.

"1981," a paean to Colton's birth year is the kind of song that would have been warmly received in the mid-to-late 90s when guitar-based pop music like this was engaging and successful. That being written, it's hard to think "1981," could find an audience these days. Though "1981," is far from memorable, it isn't exactly a misstep either. Colton knows his wheelhouse and writes within it, very rarely leaving his comfort zone. But again, more on that later.

The piano-driven ode to nostalgia, "Graceland," is as winning and potent as anything Colton has ever written. While "Waiting for Love," seeks commercial success, "Graceland," seeks heartstrings. This is heart-on-the-sleeve, hold nothing back songwriting and hot damn if it isn't memorable. "Twenty Something," is more or less a mashup of "1981," and "Graceland," another revisionist and honest look at a life spent, but one that does so with a sensitivity that is both relative and welcome. "Everything You Are," is the album's big, romantic valentine and while its intentions are commendable, it revisits the same sonic landscape as "1981." Being that its 2010, it's hard to think the song will find an audience. But then again, everyone's a born romantic, aren't they?

"There Comes a Time" is the moment when Colton chases after the kind of song he's always strived to write. The native Oklahoman has always given credence and props to his home state, but never writes withe the kind of roots-based approach that evokes his home state's barren landscape. That of course changes on "There Comes a Time," which has a rootsy feel to it that evokes an Oklahoma plain. If there's one flaw to Colton's songwriting its that he far too often dresses up his songs with a California sheen, succumbing to the claw of commercialism and titanic record sales. Truth is, rootsy songs are all the rage now. Just ask anyone that's downloaded Sigh No More or I and Love and You.

"You're On Your Way," is the album's motivational speech, a lukewarm track armed with compassion, comfort and hordes of well-wishes. But it's far from astonishing or cinematic. The self-indulgent "Suitcase," is another track that feels lost in time. There's just something about it that doesn't feel relevant or hip. But as any good artist does, Colton picks himself up and atones for all his mistakes on the album's final two cuts. "Our Story (One Day at a Time)," is a cello-driven slice of heaven that bears a striking similarity to Vertical Horizon. In truth, both outfits are quite similar, which makes one think, had Colton been around in Vertical Horizon's heyday, he might have found the same success as them. The disc rounds out with "A Day Too Late," a stark ode to hindsight that is Colton at his absolute best. Naked, honest, and understated.

That this full-length can be considered his best yet still have four duds is proof that Colton doesn't seem willing to extend himself or branch out. Tracks like "Love Comes Back Around," "There Comes a Time," and "Pacific Coast Eyes," offer a glimmer into this direction, but the results aren't nearly as lasting as they can be. Humdrum cuts like "1981," "You're On Your Way,""Everything You Are" and "Suitcase," clearly show that Colton is too content to sit on his heels and play it safe. One can only hope his next full-length is more daring. Lord knows he has the talent, now we just need to see him take some chances.

Track Listing1. Love Comes Back Around
2. Waiting for Love
3. Pacific Coast Eyes
4. 1981
5. Graceland
6. Twenty Something
7. Everything You Are
8. There Comes a Time
9. You're On Your Way
10. Suitcase
11. Our Story (One Day at a Time)
12. A Day Too Late