Recordings | March 2018
By Julio C. Reyna, March 2018 Web Exclusive.
Artist: Camila Cabello
Coming from a public falling out with Fifth Harmony, two failed singles and a string of delays, it is no surprise that the original working title for this album was The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving. But the release of “Havana” late last summer – and the mass success it achieved – helped ultimately steered the visual and sonic direction of Camila Cabello’s self titled debut.
The second single, “Never Be The Same,” starts the album off. The track, touted to be much more grand than the peaks it actually reaches, finds itself somewhere between the all too common mumbling and whisper vocals and the notes that are just not possible for Cabello to hit. It is one of the rare moments on the album in which she strays from the latin-lite trappings that dominate the tracklist. The guitar lead “All These Years” makes no attempt to conceal that it’s equal parts Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”
The moments that stand out, and by that I mean work for her, are when she almost lets her personality and some sass come through. “She Loves Control” is a caution to any potential suitors about a woman who does not need anyone, but also knows the trail of heartbreak she’s left behind. “Real Friends” could have easily gone the route of a petty take down, but is instead a self-aware nod to the situation she faced with her previous bandmates.
The album is mostly just here in the sense that it is so carefully executed that no room for mistake was given. It plays out as a passable first effort, but one that is almost completely void of an actual personality. Still, what she lacks in vocal ability she quickly makes up for with her ability to perfectly fill each song with emotion.
Artist: Above & Beyond
Album: Common Ground
Above & Beyond returns with their fourth album, Common Ground, an effort that finds the group navigating post-party emotional ups and downs. While the project feels comfortable, thanks to new collaborations with artists featured in previous work, it also finds the group in a space where the focus is less electronic and more instrument oriented.
The album begins with “The Inconsistency Principle,” an instrumental track that is ambient, uplifting and perfectly leads into the single, “My Own Hymn.” The song features Zoe Johnston the first of her three appearances throughout the album. As any of fan of the group can attest, the pairing of her beautiful and mesmerizing vocals against the pulsating synthesizer never fails to create a sense of awe. While the track relies on familiarity, the other two collaborations with the singer reveal the group’s sonic versatility. “Sahara Love” is an foray into ’80s pop sensibilities and “Always” is a practically acoustic piano-led track.
Richard Bedford and his ever-haunting vocals make multiple appearances – “Northern Soul,” “Bittersweet & Blue” and “Happiness Amplified” – the latter of which plays in familiar fashion, the verse slowly builds into a grand chorus and the music drops, creating a sense of elation. It is a song that teases the intensity of the group’s live performances. It’s hard to not picture their hands in the air, lights hitting to each beat and confetti filling the sky.
As a whole, Common Ground manages to both take listeners on on emotional journey and also creates a safe space for anyone willing to join them on the adventure. In a world the seems divided all too often, this is a reminder that everyone ultimately yerns for the same things. Above & Beyond always had that mission in mind and their ability to cohesively and consistently achieve this is deserving of the almost cult-like following they have.