The Life To My Soul, by artist and songwriter Johnny Mark, opens up with the striking and unique sound of Not Everything is Real. The track erupts into this fusion of distorted rock riffs, folk-like acoustic guitar picking, and a plethora of new-age electronic elements. Everything about it hints at different directions of influence, yet at its core the song offers a strong melody line and a concept that successfully provokes thought.
The song has an indie rock feel for the most part, the leading vocal seems reminiscent of the style of certain indie bands from back in the day, though the vocal effect brings in more of that home-production, electronic edge. This is something that continues as the project progresses. Track two Beacon has a notable bass line and a trip-hop-like beat to begin with, later evolving into an almost punk rock piece with a memorable hook. The vocals are mixed in among the instrumentation at a fairly similar level, so they don’t always stand out as much as they would in a pop or rock track. This gives the impression of the voice being another instrument, of everything being equal and part of this culmination of sounds laid out to express certain ideas. It adds to the alternative element of the project.
Sacred takes the electronica even further as this ultimate song for the summertime steps up, complete with uplifting riffs and an increasing level of energy. The instrumentation varies significantly throughout, at times giving off a slightly manic aura, at other times creating this perfectly balanced and blissful moment of power. There are parts of the track that captivate intensely, the sound of the synths playing out in unity is mesmerizing.
Owe It All To You is perhaps the first moment at which the artist’s voice and ideas are laid almost completely bare. The up close and personal style of the introduction draws you in with it’s explicitly personal touch – the story brings honesty, reflection, vulnerability, and above all; humanness. The song progresses in a beautiful way and the verses lead into the hook with wonderful strength. The whole thing keeps your attention and satisfies in the way that any great song should. Musically this is one of the more simpler sounding tracks of the album, but it speaks volumes for the strength of thoughtful and well crafted songwriting in that even a stripped back, solo performance could convey the ideas and emotion and sentiment superbly.
Light Within The Dark follows on well. The progression of chords, the sound of the guitar, the organic energy of the beat, the way the melody and lyricism develop – it all leaves it’s mark. Despite the minimal instrumentation this section of the album showcases what a talented songwriter Johnny Mark really is. The more you listen, the clearer this becomes.
Your Photograph is a folk-pop meets electronica declaration of love. The song has the poetic outpouring of a love song, yet the vocal effect keeps that alternative thread present. The use of major chords and an uplifting piano part offers a whole new vibe as you approach the mid section of the project. Barrel Of A Gun keeps this energy going, despite the nature of it’s title and concept. The music has a light hearted sound, particularly as the chorus of voices come into play. The song feels joyful somehow, and is another one that gets you thinking quite deeply.
A hope for a future that can never come..
Holding On To Summer adds to the hopeful sound of this mid-section and in fact suggests at this point that the opening couple of tracks were simply the heavier, more intense ones intended to start things off with a bang – which they do. This song deals with a subject that most listeners, particular those of us based in the ever sunny United Kingdom, are likely to relate to. The recording takes a gentle, acoustic approach which fits well with the mood of the melody and the writing. Just Be You follows beautifully, at first complying with the acoustic tenderness, then soon evolving into this indie rock anthem offering a powerful string of lyrics touching on something that can never be said enough.
As you move into Never Give It Away the more experimental side of the songwriter’s work returns. The music gives off an alternative, perhaps quite tribal-like energy. The melody also takes an experimental turn and the music progresses in an unpredictable manner. The lyrics grab your attention on occasion, though the levels are up here and it bears listening to more than once to really capture the essence of the writing.
Much of the content within this project is loaded with optimism and positivity. The music is largely alternative, though the indie songwriter core is consistent and the artist’s open style of expression shines brightly throughout. Music with a message is hugely valuable, particularly during some of the world’s more difficult times. On some level this album encapsulates the shared feelings of life at this very moment, and it offers a comforting outlet for anyone who may be struggling. A point which leads well into the next track.
This Is Our Time brings the heaviness back for a moment. As the vocal comes in I’m reminded slightly of certain singers and songwriters from the eighties. The reverb, the melody, the short and striking nature of the lines, the rhythm – everything has an almighty and occasionally nostalgic feel to it. The track soon develops into something much more complex and electronically influenced, brilliantly reinforcing that idea of the changing of the times and of ceasing the current moment. The outro offers an intense wall of sound that lingers around you as you reflect upon what’s come to pass.
Follow has a light energy, well placed after the power and complexity of the previous track. Believe In Love comes next and offers the hope and joyful imagery required to really encourage you to believe, then All The Love In The World takes the final bow and remains brilliantly in keeping with the unwavering optimism of the collection. The track has a huge hook section that stays with you long after listening, a great way to close things down.
The Life To My Soul is all at once complex and easy to absorb, offering listeners the heart and soul of honest songwriting, as well as an alternative and often experimental musicality to help keep things interesting. The album will be available from June 2nd, pre-order it on iTunes. Find and follow Johnny Mark on Facebook & Twitter. Visit his Website for more information.