Quirky electro-pop production meets with contemporary RnB melodies as Sky Olson kicks off a colourful and poetic album Hollow Walls.
Songwriter Without a Song is the opener, and leads us hypnotically into the arena of sound and this image of the artist as contemplative and naturally connected to the process of making music.
Somewhat familiar and natural in vocal style, Sky’s music blends this accessible quality with a notably experimental yet still effective manner of sound-design. This is everything from bells and synths to sci-fi fragments, stops and starts, and gamer-style interludes.
Love and Only Love follows on and the dreamy arrangement quickly makes sense – as does the now recognisable vocal rasp and softly soulful expression. Things get personal here, reflective and relatable on a beautifully intimate and still poetic level. The melody is gorgeous, familiar again but held taller on the strength of this atmospheric, other-worldly or underwater-style soundscape.
These appear to be traits of the project, the artist, initially – uninhibited creativity in the studio, from the lyrics to the mix, and a sense of understanding the audience in terms of the comforting, cleanly-recorded vocal lead. The balance works beautifully, you get something that works for its pop sentiments yet refreshes for its unpredictability.
Burn The Walls Down pours through as an immediately memorable ballad, piano-led with vocal choir support as Sky paves the way with short lines, deep thoughts and metaphorical references. An ultimate highlight in its build up, euphoric drop, and underlying intentions.
Afterwards, the sultry swagger and soul of A Waltz For Hailey works its magic with ease thanks to contrast and the sudden one-on-one presentation. Then there’s the blues-rock shuffle and rhythm of an organic, infectious Still 17 – catchy as anything and urging the listener to check out a live performance at the earliest possibility.
People Fade is gorgeous, powerful in topic, gentle by design, with sublime electric guitar work freely meandering to reinforce the laid-back lyrical appreciation for the one and the current moment.
These organic guitar roots extend further than expected – Broken Time Machine injects a breathy folk stomp of blissful melody and movement at the penultimate moment. Then there’s the acoustic fingerpicking of Empty Room, vastly juxtaposing the album’s multi-layered, electronic opener, and shining a whole new light on the artistry and thoughtful storytelling of Sky Olson.
Consistently surprising, in a good way – great songwriting, in short, and superb musicianship to back it up. There’s a touch of quirky development but never so much so that it robs the style of integrity; far from it. Sky Olson has mastered the craft here, proving both accessible and interesting consistently, and still managing to access those deeply human emotions that only purposeful music tends to do.
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