These days, it's practically impossible for me to write more than a few sentences about an album because I'm so out of practice, but Mr. Appleton, you compel me to break the silence and channel my inner fangirl.
The album is titled When The Sun Comes Up and it took me by surprise a few months back when the sampler came out. Within two tracks I was sold on the songwriting prowess and fusion pop sound Steve Appleton had created. Yet, like any good critic, I tried to remain impartial until I heard the full length because samplers tend to be misleading (see Frankmusik) - it's too easy to load up a promo with the best tracks only to leave the rest of the album in an utter state of trash - another sad case of "too good to be true."
This filler debacle happens in every genre, but to some extent I hear it most often in pop albums. So it's to great surprise that Steve proves he's no one-trick-pony . . . time, after time, after time. I'm not saying that lightly either - I know we album reviewers try to raise musicians on undeserved pedestals by saying they're one-of-a-kind, wheel-re-inventors - but Steve is doing something so fantastic with fusion, authenticity, and talent, that I find myself hard-pressed to find one thing to call him out on.
My personal turning point was on the album's third track "Seeing Stars" when a full out drum and bass beat starts doing the time-keeping for a track that melodically and lyrically would fit fetchingly on a John Mayer or Matt Wertz album. Understand that what little DnB I listen to lives exclusively in the realm of High Contrast, so for me to pick out the elements straight away means this ain't no subtle borrowing. The boy isn't shy about representing the genre either, 7 of the album's 17 (that's right, fucking 17 tracks!) leverage the great propulsive dynamic of drum and bass. And if I stop to think about it, I'm surprised that DnB hasn't made its way into pop music sooner because they fucking fit together - well, at least in the way Steve has been using it. Drum and bass is innately high energy and forward moving, so if you pull back on the breakneck speed but douse everything in a bath of catchy hooks and dreamy summer lyrics, you got a song that sounds like it's fighting itself (in a good way). The beat keeps everything uptempo and driving, seemly trying to accelerate the track, but the actual melody is so chill and easygoing (in the way that only reggae and funk can be) that the inaccessible edge of DnB gets muted. This is a heaven-made match.
But so far I've only told you about his Drum and Bass roots - this shouldn't overshadow his talent for rock (the guy can write a serious lick), funk (he understands pacing and swing like a young Herbie Hancock), pop (vocally and lyrically, Jack Johnson and John Mayer can eat their hearts out), jazz (apparently his piano improv is equal parts deadly), reggae (I'm running out of witty references, but trust me, Marley wouldn't stiff this guy), and country (because "Wake Me Honey" has an unmistakeably twangy, bluesy fire). Mr. Appleton if you ever found a way to incorporate a bit of Disco into your sound, I would build a shrine in your honor and make you my god. As it is, I've already reviewed your album which is more than I've done for a proper artist since I stopped writing for DFO 3 years ago.
Bottom-line? I'll be listening to this on repeat, sans skips for at least a month (that's practically a decade if this were the 60's and I had a "normal" music appetite)! Also, it would be ridiculous for me to pick a "favorite" track. The whole thing is that good...
Top 10 of 2009?
Pick it up 8/31/09.