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 edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be filling quite a tall order. The man is Phillip Presswood, and his new record is ‘Love: The Fifth Season 3 CD Set.’ The eclectic collection is Presswood’s sixth studio endeavor, one that traverses a massive array of genres with elegant tact and prowess. Now, weighing in at thirty tracks, ‘Love’ certainly means business. For the purpose of this Spotlight feature, however, we’re going to hone in on a random handful of tunes from about half the record. Let’s get right into it.
Presswood’s repertoire has arisen comparisons between him and Enya in the past, with fans and critics lauding his musical ability to craft complex landscapes of ‘multi-layered vocals, rich instrumentation, and modern choral motifs.’ Much like Enya, Presswood seems to defy specific genre classification, instead allowing his music to manifest into an immensely unique entity of its own. The opening tune, ‘Love: The Fifth Season,’ is a dramatic, cinematic landscape chock-full of layered string sections and haunting composition. It’s a stunning track that introduces Presswood wonderfully.
‘A True Love Story’ employs Presswood’s vocals - a falsetto croon that cascades through the atmospheric soundscape with effortless beauty. His vocal style is absolutely stunning, perfect for this type of music. Again, the Enya comparison is still very apt; the song certainly draws parallels with Enya’s most beloved tunes, ‘Only Time’ or the like. There’s much more at play, though, and I can’t stress this enough: Presswood doesn’t just employ Enya-isms the whole album. He’s an original composer and performer in his own right, and elements of contemporary and classic influence seep through his music all over the place.
That’s definitely the case with ‘Only I Can Dream of You,’ a tune that employs some dream pop influence along with tinges of electronica. Again, Presswood’s vocals elegantly contrast his composition. It’s worth mentioning that he can write a killer hook - I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; the art of penning a quality, infectiously good hook is a very difficult one. Go try to write a hook. It’s very hard and often unappreciated. Presswood nails it throughout ‘Love: The Fifth Season,’ perhaps even exhibited most powerfully on ‘Only I Can Dream of You.’
‘Dance of the Faeries’ incorporates classical celtic stylings, thus providing a sonic contrast to some of Presswood’s previous songs. The tune is an interlude of sorts, segwaying straight into ‘Days Unknown,’ a reverb-soaked composition that displays Presswood’s incredible vocal range and ability to layer his voice. An entire choir of his vocals rises and falls with Phil Spector-esque strength. (By that, I mean that his composition hits you like a joyous wall of sound.)
I found ‘Book of the Moon’ to be a particularly refreshing entity toward the third-way point of ‘Love: The Fifth Season.’ One of only critiques of Presswood’s work arose around this point in my experience: he absolutely dominates his style, but plays it a bit safe at times. This album could have been cut in half and the same impression would have been made on the listener. At times, Presswood’s compositions feel ‘safe,’ embracing recurring musical themes and styles, perhaps to a fault. Thus, I was thrilled when I discovered ‘Book of the Moon,’ a piano led ballad with massive lasting impact. I returned to the recording several times throughout my listening experience since it made such an impression on me.
As I dug deeper and deeper into this three CD collection, I found myself specifically seeking tracks with a new flair to them, because aforementioned, Presswood does recycle themes quite a bit. That caused me to gloss over tunes like ‘Where I’ll Be’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’ in favor of ‘Lost at Sea.’ ‘Lost at Sea’ is a superb tune, one that sonically toys with such beautiful imagery and tonal changes.
Fortunately, as I dug into the latter half of the album, it wasn’t quite as difficult to find variations on Presswood’s established sound. ‘The Fire of Love’ is in the same vein of ‘Book of the Moon,’ but rather centralizing itself around a searing electric guitar lead. Combined with some tight electronica percussion, the track is one of the very best of the album. The same can be said for the bombastic, cinematic ‘Tempus Fugit.’ Goodness that tune is something to behold.
I’m a sucker for a good cover. I clicked on Presswood’s cover of Madonna’s ‘Ghosttown’ without even realizing it was the pop goddess’s tune. Wow. Skip straight to this track. It’s the best cover we’ve reviewed for the Independent Spotlight this year. Presswood captures Madonna’s spirit with amazing contemporary flair, revitalizing the song for a new generation. I’d actually argue the final CD of the three is littered with the most compelling pieces. The defiant ‘One Last Wonder’ is a wonder of its own, and ‘The March of Hearts’ is a resounding compositional success.
‘Love: The Fifth Season’ is a superb record; I really can’t stress that enough. Presswood’s originality, musical prowess, and compositional ability consistently amazed me throughout. It’s only downfall is its length - it doesn’t really hold enough water for a thirty track release. A few tunes could have been cut to slim this down to a twenty, or even fifteen track outing. That probably would have been preferable. That said, it’s an album incredibly worth your time. Check it out below right now. Seriously, get over there and listen to it now.