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 evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Runaway Scotty, an indie musician whose real name is Christopher Scott Carter. The moniker serves as an outlet for his tunes, and his latest studio endeavor, ‘Rock My Heart,’ is an eclectic jaunt through pop rock musings and infectious stylings. He’s a singer-songwriter with a distinct flair. At the same time, however, he does embrace familiar themes, giving his music a firm grounding in its sound. Let’s dig right into it.
Runaway Scotty cites artists like The Killers and Imogen Heap as influences, which is definitely telling of his musical direction. From the opening notes of ‘Change Change Change,’ he defines himself as a quality songwriter. There’s an elegant art to the execution of a pop rock song. In fact, that art is often overlooked or cynically disregarded as unimportant. Go try to write a good hook; I’ll wait. Then, structure that hook around an equally inviting soundscape that isn’t trope-laden or boring. That’s measurably more difficult. ‘Change Change Change’ proves right out of the gate that Runaway Scotty has a wonderful grip on that outlet of songwriting.
Now, a potential pitfall of a pop rock musician can be predictability. After a few tunes, many albums like this fall into territory they’re too comfortable residing within. When ‘Pool of Love’ kicks off with its gorgeous acoustic guitar followed a dynamic, thrilling full band presentation, I was immediately reassured that ‘Rock My Heart’ wouldn’t fall into stereotypical obscurity like its industry counterparts. ‘Pool of Love’ is a particularly good song, if not just due to its absolutely superb delivery, especially in the choruses and guitar banter.
Runaway Scotty continues to define himself as a compelling composer with ‘Lose Control,’ a piano-driven ballad with especially excellent lyricism. As aforementioned, the album’s guitar banter is very notable. Thus, let’s give credit where it is most certainly due - Anthony Cusenza is the man behind those riffs, and goodness, do they define songs like ‘Lose Control.’ Carter is backed by a variety of talented musicians and vocalists, all of which accentuate the album’s vision with tact.
‘Anyway’ is another delightful track, truly embracing Carter’s ability to pen a quality chorus. His falsetto vocals and varied delivery gives the song a nice layer of complexity. At the core of many of these songs, he’s writing love ballads and ditties. Now, before you, dear reader, get all jaded about that - let’s never forget Sir. Paul McCartney’s sage advice. There will always be a place for silly little love songs.
In order for a song to occupy that space, however, it does have to be good. A poorly executed silly little love song can be a horribly predictable, cringe-worthy endeavor. Fortunately, Runaway Scotty’s ‘Rock My Heart’ pulls out all the stops to maintain a quality experience very much worthy of McCartney’s original enthusiasm for the style. ‘Rome Is Burning’ steps away from that formula to an extent, instead offering a pop rock pursuit that borders classic rock influence. It’s a soulful tune with masterful backing vocals that accent Carter well.
There is something I’d like to touch on, something that ‘Far Behind’ does exhibit. If there is one noticeable pitfall of this record, it’s that Runaway Scotty ditched some of the typical pop songwriting tropes for some of his own. Several of these tracks begin with hauntingly beautiful sparsity, something that is immediately forgone within thirty seconds for an increasingly larger production. ‘Far Behind’ would have been a better song if it had maintained the speed and style it kicks the ball off with. I would have adored seeing a more intimate side of Runaway Scotty that isn’t so polished or “full.” Stripping yourself down sonically can be amazing and ‘Far Behind,’ like many of these songs, hints at the potential of that approach for Runaway Scotty.
‘Seriously’ isn’t particularly notable - I found the song a bit too predictable and formulaic, harkening back to my original concern about the genre that Carter had previously navigated better. ‘The Circle’ returns with a rather intriguing performance, especially instrumentally. That trend is even further exemplified with ‘Follow You Home,’ a track that really stretches into complex directions instrumentally. Those synthesizers? Bloody brilliant, and entirely complimentary to the record’s potential.
‘Long Way From Home’ is as close as you’re going to get to that soft intimacy I think would have suited ‘Far Behind’ far better. This track reinforces that criticism for me, especially in regard to how beautiful that piano and acoustic guitar composition is. ‘Show Me The Way To Heaven’ is an epic culmination of everything that makes ‘Rock My Heart’ a good record - it’s a fitting finale.
‘Rock My Heart’ is a very admirable and solid pop rock effort. At times, it does feel like Carter drops traditional formulas in favor of new ones he has created, and quite honestly, that probably just trades one evil for another. You never want to be overly formulaic with your music. For the vast majority of the record, however, this isn’t the case, and ‘Rock My Heart’ stands true as an indie effort very much worth your time if you dig pop rock. The album drops this December.