Eric Crawley - 'Lucid Dreams'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Eric Crawley, an independent singer songwriter from Dallas, Texas. His new studio endeavor is ‘Lucid Dreams,’ a lengthy album chock-full of R&B and soul influence. Crawley cites inspiration from the likes of Michael Jackson and Frank Ocean - parallels that are immediately clear when you delve deep into this record. So, is it worth picking up and having in your collection? Let’s dig right in and determine whether or not it is…

When one enters the sonic pastures of ‘Lucid Dreams,’ they’re met by the uber-soulful track ‘Over & Over.’ Crawley immediately defines himself as a vocalist with a soulful, lovely sound. He croons through the track as overdubs of his vocals cascade over one another in waterfall fashion. I’d go as far to argue there’s a hint of hip hop influence in here, too, and the beats in ‘Over & Over’ are quite solid.

The impressiveness of the album’s production is amplified by the knowledge that Crawley wrote, arranged, and produced the entirety of it himself. The majority of the album seems to be electronic, composed with drum machines and synthesizers. When you drive down that road, you have to continually avoid the pothole of overproduction. Fortunately, I think Crawley does a masterful job of this. ‘Write Person 2,’ for example, is so minimalistic in its presentation, highlighting Crawley’s vocals in a particularly wonderful way.

‘Attention’ is an exceptional track, one that really helps concrete Crawley’s sound that he’s attempting to establish on the album. I know he didn’t cite this as an immediate influence, but there’s a comparison to be drawn between ‘Lucid Dreams’ and ‘808s & Heartbreak,’ one of Kanye West’s most defining albums. The somber, mysterious atmosphere of the synthesizers and reverberated beats is eerily similar. (I think that’s a high compliment, in truth. ‘808s’ is a masterpiece.)

The Band Camp version of ‘Lucid Dreams’ offers ‘Hello Farewell’ as an ‘extended mix.’ It’s not an especially long track, so I’d be intrigued by the standard rendition of the track to see the differences. In any case, ‘Hello Farewell’ incorporates what sounds like electric guitar - crunchy, intense, and blended beautifully with the synthesizers. The track is foot-stomping, even walking the line on melancholy indie rock. Crawley is in top form vocally as well.

One of the potential struggles of crafting an album entirely by yourself is falling into predictable monotony - something that’s quite easy when you’re clocking in thirteen tracks. Surprisingly, I think Crawley navigates those treacherous waters fairly well. A lot of the lyrical themes tie into one another on ‘Lucid Dreams,’ but nothing feels terribly derivative of another track. ‘Playground’ even has a subtle nod to Marvin Gaye. Well done, Crawley.

I’d be interested to see how Crawley would fare as a producer for music that isn’t contemporary pop-tinged R&B and soul. A lot of these tracks, like ‘Do It Better,’ for example, are prime real estate for hip hop. The following track, ‘Haunted,’ is even more perfect for hip hop. I digress, though, and the latter track has a remarkably good beat that accentuates Crawley’s delivery splendidly. ‘Haunted’ is the first track that, at least to me, exudes Michael Jackson influence. ‘Dreams on the Moon’ then closes the first half of the record with an eerie interlude that is arguably one of the more compelling, albeit simplistic compositions on the record.

‘Love Arrow,’ which is another extended mix that also features guest artist Chandra, has a bit of a dance-esque feel to it. I have a feeling the track would be well suited to a dance floor. Chandra is a welcome addition as well, spacing out Crawley’s soulful male vocals with some fantastic complementary female vocals. The two truly jive well. The song, however, is eclipsed by its follow-up.

‘Mr. Time’ is likely my favorite song on the album. Firstly, it has some exceptional lyrics. Some of the album’s lyrics can become repetitive, but ‘Mr. Time’ feels so fresh and imaginative. The dreamy landscape is spine-tingling and sure to send a chill through your body when you first listen to it, especially around 1:35 when Crawley overlays his vocals.

‘Blue’ offers a bit of poetic redemption for Crawley as the album starts to inch toward its closing. He sings about how tired he is of remaining blue and waiting for love, a theme that’s definitely poignant throughout the rest of the album prior to this song. It’s one of the more intense tracks as well, perhaps concreting the emotional turn-around that Crawley is attempting to make.

‘Art of Us’ and ‘Guard Your Heart’ are elegant closers, the former is a deeply emotional jaunt through reverb, and the latter is a finale that seems to incorporate all of the production elements of its predecessors. It’s also worth mentioning that Crawley has a ‘visual’ album with all of these tracks, too, which you can find below. In honesty, it lacks some of the professionalism of its musical counterpart. It’s there if you want to dig deeper, but you’re also not missing anything by omitting it from your experience.

‘Lucid Dreams’ is an excellent album very much grabbing if you’re a fan of Frank Ocean-esque sounds that combine pop, soul, and R&B in a coherent, enjoyable manner.

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