Joel Ansett, who is from the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, just dropped his first album. It's called 'The Nature of Us' and is a mix of folk-pop, pop and R&B, with emphasis on what might be properly referred to as soft-pop. Essentially, stylistically and vocally, Ansett resembles Jason Mraz, which is a good thing because Mraz is certainly popular. Ansett has accrued a raft of accolades: CBS did a feature on him and he made the finals of the 2013 International Songwriting Competition. Moreover, his Kickstarter campaign amassed $25,000. In other words, his music garnered support and disciples. And it's easy to see why. His music is pop-soft, balanced and conveniently benign. Put simply, Ansett's music is peaceful.
Maybe too peaceful.
'The Nature of Us' contains twelve tracks. 'Kingdom Come', the first track, a R&B number with a heavy dose of gospel works well after a minor hiccup: initially, the lyrics are sing-song, as if compressed. But then it smooths out with better phrasing. 'Already In Love', the first single from the album, is a laid-back pop tune, with excellent phrasing and a definite Jason Mraz feel.
The highlight of the album may be 'Turn to Gold', a gentle folk number featuring an acoustic guitar and Ansett's velvety voice. A chorus that can only be described as pretty provides a delightful factor to the song's success. The rest of the tracks on the album display various intersections between soft-pop and folk-pop. Unfortunately, none of them stand out. They're not bad. They're just examples of stylized melodies taking precedence over substance, a veneer of pleasing countenance over the same old thing. For instance, the last track, 'Give Our Hearts Some Weight' is a sweet folk song that begins by being cloying, and eventually becomes asphyxiating. It's mundane and too safe, as if the targeted audience is mawkish teeny-boppers.
Even though the arrangements and production values on 'The Nature of Us' are first-rate, rich and flexible, after the first few tracks, the redundancy sprouts tiny hooks of deepening ennui. Ansett's voice is pleasing and the lyrics are well-crafted, along with the music. The problem is the songs are too prudent, too cautious. The "pop" factor is fugitive. This engenders boredom with the lyrical musings and vague hints at what might have been. The result is an album riddled by pleasant mediocrity.
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