Monday, February 20, 2012

Kat's Korner: Absorb the Graffiti

Kat: "I'm seeing colours, floating through my mind, colours" insists Graffit6 on the title track of their new album and thank goodness that's true. Back on January 30th, C.I. was plugging "Free," the first single from the group's debut album and linking to the video which then was at 331,089 views. Right now, it's at 1,357,390 views.

Now there's no denying that Jamie Scott's something to look at and then some.

jamie scott

Rebecca's trumpeted his hotness (or as she put it "sexy goodness") here and here. And, hell, hormonal response makes up a good portion of all reaction to popular music, let's be honest. As Kara e-mailed me a week and a half ago, when I still hadn't done a review, "Kat, how can you not want to wrap your legs around all that?" Agreed.

I'll even agree that "Free" is a great song and should be a huge radio hit. In fact, I wouldn't object were it to become the most played song by radio of 2012. It's infectious with a great beat and Scott's vocals get down and dirty sexy at several points throughout. And Mike's already noted the strong lyrics.

But a song -- even one with a sexy video -- does not an album make. And I had a number of other things to do on the road then give full attention to a new album by a group I wasn't really familiar with. I replied to everyone who wrote to let me wait until the Presidents' Day weekend to weigh in. In the meantime, I read up on the British group. They're Jamie Scott (singer-songwriter) and Tommy D (songwriter-producer) along with Jimi Crayon who is responsible for their artwork and visuals (great job by Jimi, he has a really strong eye). The official bio notes, "Upon hearing [Joni] Mitchell's Blue at the age of seven, Scott picked up a guitar and taught himself to play" and quotes Jamie stating, "At school, friends would be talking about bands like Bon Jovi and I didn't have a clue who they were talking about as I didn't start to listen to pop radio till I was 15." And I can hear a Joni influence in "Free," especially in the parts about breaking the sky. In the vocals, especially on "baby," I can hear the influence of another artist he name checks: Donny Hathaway. I'm not really hearing Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye's influence on the single.

But, sure enough, if you listen to Colours, you're exposed to a group that's much more dynamic than the single suggests.


The worst track on the album is "Stop Mary," track ten. And yet it's both infectious and strangely promising as you grasp that they could have gone for cookie-cutter but are reaching for something more, more artistic, more expressive.

And for the bulk of the album, they grab onto that. "Goodbye Geoffrey Drake" is a complete surprise (click here for video of Jamie performing the song acoustic), a third person tale about a man who loved a woman and kills her when she rejects his love and he's executed. An interesting choice and not some forgotten British folk song I'd never heard of, this is an original written by Jamie Scott and Tommy D. I don't think anyone's surprised me with their desire to descend like this since the Police released Synchronicity.

For those just wanting the male Adele (something I fear a number of "Free" lovers expect), they can go to track 11 "Lay Me Down" and get lost in "take my soul, let it grow." Myself, I prefer the more overt psychedelic nature of "Stare Into The Sun," "Colours" and "Annie You Save Me." But I think we can all agree that "Calm The Storm" is a universal favorite.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the album and was pleasantly surprised. More than that, I was struck by the fact that we might have a band that makes an album. The Police, the Stones, the Doors and various others had hit singles that came from great albums. Too many releases of the last 12 years have been collections of singles and not really an overall artistic statement. (During the same period, women have been doing the heavy artistic lifting -- see the works of Roberta Flack, Joss Stone, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Joni, Carly Simon, Stevie Nicks, Joanna Newsom and Sade to name but a few.) I used to be desperate enough to kid myself that the catchy singles from Coldplay added up to an album. But each of the three releases which have followed A Rush of Blood to the Head has served to convince me otherwise. With Colours, Graffiti6 seems willing to mine the British rock & soul traditions which includes both laying it on the line and making cohesive albums.