26 October 2011CD Review - Pacific Coast Eyes Vol. 2 by Graham Colton
“Graham's new album
Pacific Coast Eyes has so many memorable songs, it's been impossible
to not have one in my head since my first listen, which was weeks
ago. The songwriting, performances and production are so addictive
that I'm not willing to give Pacific Coast Eyes up for quite a while.”
Release Date: 18 October 2011
Genre: Pop / Rock / Singer-Songwriter
Publisher: (C) 2011 Graham Colton
Label: GC Recordings
Time: 01h 06 m 22s
Review Date: 26-October-2011
Format: AAC (iTunes)
JivePK: Not currently a Jivewired Member
01. Pacific Coast Eyes
(Blackwatch Sessions) 3:47
Graham Colton makes no small gestures. On the surface, that's a positive, as Colton has deftly mastered the ability to tie the maudlin lows of heartbreak to the ephemeral highs of romantic tenacity. For most, that's a tough break to tread. However, Colton successfully manages to avoid the pitfalls of exaggerated and insincere self-indulgent pop so common among similar artists today. By avoiding the cliched and grandiose, the songs on Colton's latest release, "Pacific Coast Eyes, Vol. 2", use mostly warm and sincere arrangements that elevate them far above the mean. At the same time, he manages to render his music both accessible and emotive. That is the mark of a highly polished recording artist.
The trick, it would seem, to successfully master this type of expression, is knowing when to use a more deliberately paced formula as opposed to letting it all out, so to speak, in cover-to-cover fashion. Graham Colton has mastered the nuances, subtleties and fluidity of good album construction, which is more difficult than it may seem. Straight pop music often gets a bad rap for being overly formulaic, but one needs only to witness the overblown histrionics of most of pop music's more recent releases to understand just how much work goes into the construction of a good record. On "Pacific Coast Eyes, Vol. 2", Graham Colton does everything the right way.
The catalyst of it all is deeply inspired songwriting and Colton's ability to reflect genuine persona into his lyrical content. On songs like "1981 (Blackwatch Sessions Version)" and "Our Story" he works in a more contemporary vein, but one edified by soft, simple melodies, before yielding to perfectly syncopated percussion or an understated string arrangement immersed within gentle ambient chords and beautifully balanced vocals. "Hold On To My Heart" represents the best of this particular formula. Colton uses soft acoustic guitar to frame the entire song, putting the emphasis then on both the verse/chorus interplay and Colton's vocals. "Wide Open Inside" and "Graceland" represent similar song construction. It is on these songs that the singer/songwriter demonstrates both breadth and diversion within the recording.
It is the more upbeat numbers, however, with which the listener will ultimately connect. Graham Colton has a succinct way of sonically adjoining word, music and emotion to attach himself to his audience. This is easier to accomplish on the songs listed above that are genuine ballads. Often in a more uptempo arrangement it's hard to build separation between the instrumentation and lyrical content. Colton manages to restrain the dominant factor of the music without diminishing its impact while keeping the emphasis on the intended lyrical message. The best of the upbeat numbers are "Waiting For Love" and "Everything You Are" which flawlessly extend Colton's range to its upper register. The single version of "1981" is particularly impressive and is easily the best overall song on the album.
My favorite song on "Pacific Coast Eyes, Vol. 2" lies somewhere in between the more contemporary and upbeat numbers. "Pacific Coast Eyes" is a beautiful and engaging single that showcases everything that is great about this album. Colton utilizes indelible layering that includes handclaps, catchy harmonies and backing vocals, an addictive hook, tight percussion and a fetching arrangement to create a great pop song.
Graham Colton makes a statement
on this record. More than just a pop record, "Pacific Coast Eyes,
Vol. 2" encapsulates intimacy on a purely aural level and Colton
represents well amongst his contemporaries and peers. That intimacy
resonates not just in it's balladry, but to even greater depths by
utilizing reactive, well-built and emotive arrangements throughout.
We have had a slew of wonderful new releases out of the Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma area recently and you can safely add Graham Colton to the
A-List of outstanding performers that call the OKC home.
About Graham Colton
“Halfway between somewhere and nothing, I woke up and I’m twenty-something” reflects singer-songwriter Graham Colton from his new album, ‘Pacific Coast Eyes’.
Art really does reflect life. The songs are always more than just melodies. It’s the music that brings emotional meaning to the lyrics, and sheds some light on the story behind the artist and their intentions.
With these lyrics, we see Colton at a crossroads. An all-too familiar scene with an honest sentiment that most all of us can relate to in some way or another. It’s a poignant observation by an artist who both literally and figuratively inserts himself directly into the middle of the song. It’s a depiction of one of those life-affirming moments.
Perhaps, this is Colton's greatest gift…his ability to write lyrics about universal themes of love and loss, and everything between in a way that uniquely endears himself to the listener; and most importantly, enables them to feel as though they are hearing the story of their own lives.
It should come as no surprise that his music has found its way to the masses on the big screen and in living rooms across the country, lending itself to multiple uses ranging from the famous 'exit song' on American Idol to dramatic and emotional montages for several promo campaigns on national networks and specials ranging from Oprah Winfrey's 'Big Give' to CBS's Thanksgiving Football programming.
All of these licenses combined, led to multiple invitations for Colton to perform on nationally televised programs including the Today Show, Regis and Kelly, Ellen, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Late Show with David Letterman, and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. “I performed ‘Best Days’ everywhere, it forever changed my life” says Colton.
Before relocating back to Oklahoma, Colton spent the majority of his early adulthood living out of a suitcase as a traveling musician. After a brief stint at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, Colton left prematurely to accept an invitation from Counting Crows' front man, Adam Duritz, to open up for the band on what would turn into six national tours.
Shortly after, the artist recorded his debut album, 'Drive', as part of Graham Colton Band with legendary producer Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Train, Pearl Jam) and toured with the likes of Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, and Maroon 5 among others. The relentless touring and hard work paid off with critical acclaim and a year-long tour with pop superstar Kelly Clarkson during her meteoric rise to fame.
Now a solo artist, he enlisted producer John Fields (Switchfoot, Jimmy Eat World, Semisonic) and newfound friend Tommy Walter (Eels, Abandoned Pools) to help craft the his second album, Here Right Now. The record was recorded in the spring and summer of 2007 and featured the hit single “Best Days.” 'Here Right Now' debuted at number two on the Billboard New Artist chart and #4 on the iTunes Pop Chart, where the single was featured as the highly sought after 'free download of the week'.
Colton found a new confidence as a songwriter after witnessing these songs that were written in his bedroom come to life in ways that he never could have anticipated. “I took time after my last album to examine what I loved most about writing and performing my music, and also what I wanted to do differently.” Further, Colton adds “I settled back in to living in Oklahoma City and re-connected with friends and my family. I married the love of my life. And I found a new confidence in song writing.
The artist surprised himself by the depth and maturity displayed in this collection of songs for his third album, Pacific Coast Eyes. “At the beginning, I was convinced my writing and singing needed to go bigger. But, I quickly realized the good stuff happened when I wasn’t trying” says Colton.
The album took shape in a similar fashion. Having earned his newfound freedom as a free agent, Colton elected to bet on himself and his songs, and take the courageous step of forging ahead with his newfound status as an independent artist, and focusing on making the best record possible.
“I recorded songs in Norman, Oklahoma, and in Tommy Walter’s place in LA, using my own money. It was a little scary at times…but I knew I was onto something and was committed to chasing it.” Like the earliest days of his career, Graham slept on couches, pulled favors for studio time, and racked up serous airline miles while he re-discovered himself through writing and recording.
From the infectious stomp and clap in the title track, “Pacific Coast Eyes,” to the driving chorus of “1981,” the album sets as a backdrop of young life and love with the windows down. “I tapped into childhood memories, untold stories and wrote about characters I’ve never met but somehow knew,” says Colton. Colton’s growth as a singer-songwriter is most evident when chronicling a young couple on their own road to redemption in “Graceland” or in the simple but stunning “Love Comes Back Around.”
"I allowed myself to have fun and open up in one song, and follow with total heartbreak in the next. I stripped songs down to their core. Somehow it all feels right to me now.” The album ebbs and flows through relationships and self-reflection with a resonating sense of hope. What started out as fragmented phrases and thoughts is now an instantly memorable music collection.
Having spent the majority of his musical career traveling, the singer-songwriter has fittingly found his way back to his hometown of Oklahoma City and reestablished strong roots in the place where it all began. “The album started with me taking time off from the road and really learning how to live again,” says Colton. 'Pacific Coast Eyes' is certainly a reflection of just that, a personal account and intimate portrayal of the evolution of that process.