Justin Levinson and The Valcours “This Side Of Me, This Side Of You”
Boston based Levinson has been exploring other sounds since his debut years ago, and this new album really showcases that growth. With his new band The Valcours he opens things up with a strong piano melody and punchy beat on “Water Wears The Rock” remind me of Ben Wilkins. Next up, “You Became a Ghost” is a very tight arrangement with great harmonies that will appeal to fans of Ben Folds.
Lyrically its smart and serves up tales of heartbreak like on “Let You Go,” where a fight goes bad (“I will bring my white flag out… let me go”) and the orchestral & horn flourishes are a great touch. “Bar Scene” is like an updated version of “Piano Man,” where the singer is a bitter star (“I used to be somebody”) wallowing in his insecurities. It requires a few listens to get the songs to stick… but stick they do. No real clunkers and standouts include “I’ll Be Okay,” “Million Tears” and the stunning final track “If You’re Happier.” A great return to melodic form – don’t miss it.
Bill Schulz “Bill Schulz”
Smack in the middle of cheese-head country (Green Bay, WI) musician Bill Schulz has assembled a polished collection of songs, with an eye on both lushness and spartan production. What stood out to me are two excellent songs, one is the gentle ballad “Olivia” with its looping piano melody and Bill’s hushed vocal is similar to Eric Matthews. The other is “Future Butterfly” a perfectly shimmering guitar hook with echos of Nilsson and Jon Brion. There are other styles of pop here, like the Prince styled minimalist funk of “Everything That You Do” and the nice strumming bounce on “Nothing To Say,” but it’s a pretty strong contrast from the styles of those “hit” singles. Other songs, while listenable aren’t that memorable and a few (“Coal Mine”) feel more like musical doodles.